Kevin Morgan, Group Commercial Director The Crystal Group is BMBI’s Expert for PVC-U Windows & Doors.
We are finally seeing what may be a plateau in the market but demand is high. Compared to 2019, window and doors sales are very strong. For example, Crystal’s Q1 performance was 30% up compared to the same period in 2019, and Q2 was 21% up on Q2 2019. Conservatories, and windows and doors for outbuildings are very popular for extra living and working space at home.
The Q1 supply issues have eased and getting the materials we need is less of a concern. Steel (for locks and hardware) and door slabs are still causing headaches due to ongoing global shipping issues. Getting reliable delivery dates for them is particularly problematic.
The upshot of high demand and tight supply for materials is that prices are increasing, and we’ve recently seen a significant double digit jump in the cost of profiles. Ultimately the end user will bear the brunt of the increases which may impact future sales.
Current lead times are four to six weeks, which is a manageable order book. It’s an efficient model for doing business and we hope the industry will stick to it in future, rather than return to a race to the bottom to be cheaper and faster at the expense of quality.
To keep orders rolling, we are running production 18 hours a day and upskilling our twilight workforce, so they can manufacture during the night. Recruitment is difficult and there’s a lot of churn industry-wide in the jobs market, making it tricky to recruit and retain the staff we need for the extra production.
Retail channels have been busy, but this past year feels like a missed opportunity for builders’ merchants to capitalise on the boom in window sales. Historically, long and complex quote processes meant conversion rates from builder’s enquiries to merchants were very low. By closing this gap, the Crystal Window Centre pilot programme, which puts a windows trade counter with specialist staff on branch premises, converts enquiries into sales so merchants profit directly from the uplift in demand.
We expect sales to slow in Q3, but for now it’s all hands to the pump to get through the orders on the books in this most buoyant of years.