The Crystal Group Comment: Q3 2019

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

The construction and refurbishment sectors, along with fenestration, have entered more difficult times. Some companies have announced strong sales, but the quarter three market reality has been difficult with flat to falling trading. The window industry’s FENSA first half figures revealed an 8.2% drop in volume, and we’re seeing more companies heading towards administration or sale, reported jobs cuts and weaker profitability.

While some blame Brexit, the reality is that we’re coming to the end of a global economic cycle with slowdowns in China and Europe, and in that context Britain is holding its own.

Heading into the quietest time of the year, Crystal’s top performing customers have done well due to a mix of product choice, showroom investment, the continuing trend to colour, and competition exiting the market. Supply-and-fit is also raising order values, if not margin.

Sales of PVC-U windows and doors through Crystal’s network of independent merchants are 7% up year-on-year, demonstrating that merchants are in a good place to weather a weaker market and grow, if they do the right things. Some national merchants report performance up around 18% year to date.

Looking ahead, the prospects for continuing strong growth in bespoke PVC-U windows and doors are undimmed. Builders’ merchants initially missed out on this large market as builders had to buy elsewhere to get the choice, availability, display and service they needed. By providing merchants with the means to offer better choice, availability, display and service Crystal has shown that merchants can boost sales easily by recapturing ‘lost’ sales by selling to existing customers. Merchants who invest in showrooms and marketing as they do for kitchens and bathrooms do extremely well: one south coast merchant saw a 43% year-on-year category growth.

As we head into quarter four and economic uncertainty, it’s worth noting the launch of The site helps consumers navigate big ticket projects, steering them towards alternative choices – such as their trusted local builders’ merchant. If merchants choose to be a part of this exciting development Crystal is ready to help.

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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.