Malcolm Gough, Group Sales & Marketing Director Talasey Group is BMBI’s Expert for Natural Stone Landscaping Products, Vitrified Paving & Artificial Grass.
Business was really flat over the quarter, if not teetering off, although work was still being undertaken despite the wet weather. At Talasey, we used end-of-season offers across the range to finish positively. Along with other suppliers, we went into 2020 with higher stocks in the merchants, so we may feel some effects of ‘stock block’ on first quarter sales.
The porcelain market is segmenting into two, a high-end and a volume market at lower specs and prices. With the decline in the price of porcelain from alternative sources, Italian porcelain has become too expensive for some sectors of the market. Our new trade range of porcelain from Turkey increases our range, although Italian porcelain is still very much in demand for the high end of the market. With the largest offering of porcelain in the UK we cater for this split market.
There are similar changes affecting the growing artificial grass market, which offers entry level and high-end products. Suppliers need to adapt to changing markets and our new 40mm depth product is a more luxurious option than the standard 30mm product.
Another way to address a competitive market is to reduce costs while maintaining the product benefits. Changing the packaging on our resin driveway range has reduced cost and produced a ‘greener’ product. Initially a two-bucket system, our bucket and bag system mixes resin in the bucket and makes the product more competitive.
A shortage of skilled people is a growing problem, one of the biggest the industry faces, so it’s encouraging that one of the highlights of the past year has been the success of our Training Academy. We’re now looking to offer additional options – for a minimum of 12 people, we take the trainer to installers across the country. Training and skills shortages will continue to be an issue on 2020 and beyond.
As a major product importer, there’s trouble ahead: exchange rates, tariffs and new rules. The only glimmer of hope is that new build housing appears to be firmly on the new government’s agenda. We’d also welcome the return of a stronger pound.