The Crystal Group Comment: Q1 2020

Kevin Morgan, Group Commercial Director The Crystal Group is BMBI’s Expert for PVC-U Windows & Doors.

In quarter one, we’ve gone from growth in business confidence and sales after the general election to an enforced lockdown and mothballing our factory. In our sector there will be some who don’t come out of it, creating a vacuum in the market.

Everyone is talking about adapting to a new normal but what will this look like in the home improvement market?

Homeowners won’t want cold callers on the doorstep, or protracted selling and negotiation sessions in their home. This will undoubtedly affect the big national window companies whose marketing strategy relies on getting inside a consumer’s property to ‘hard sell’.

Consumers are comfortable and confident researching online. Some reports indicate home improvement searches were up 42% in the last six weeks.

The new normal will also apply to merchants. Forward-thinking merchants with informative websites, click and collect, delivery options and a proactive attitude will be in a stronger position. The jury’s out on the value of face-to-face showroom meetings but consumers will always want to touch and feel products before they buy – albeit in a safe manner.

Installers operating with clear safety guidelines and behaving with proper care will be accepted in the home. But it’s a different proposition for salespeople, when consumers can see products displayed, and get product information, pricing, and advice conveniently elsewhere.

Having already developed an online window and door digital configurator so merchants can sell more easily, Crystal is ahead of the curve. It’s part of a total package of sales and planning tools so merchants can help their customers sell and buy. The newly launched DoorsandWindows-Compare.com site is also well-timed. It offers consumers a mix of clear advice and honest pricing comparisons and, where traditionally they would not have thought of merchants, it directs them to merchants as one of the main supply choices.

One lesson reinforced in the crisis is that cashflow is king. Government support has been superb, allowing the industry to get through the crisis so companies have space to develop their plans to get back again.

Looking at planning, communications, and risk assessment, in advance of official announcements, has been vital to reopening smoothly.

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Launched in 2015, the award winning monthly Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report is the only reliable measure of repair, maintenance & improvement (RMI) activity in the UK. Filling an important gap, it can be widely used in construction, and by economists, Government, national media, commentators and influencers outside the industry.

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