The Crystal Group comment: Q3 2020

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

Q3 demand for PVC-U windows and doors has been strong. So unexpectedly strong, it has triggered supply chain problems, particularly for PVC resin – the raw material for PVC-U profiles from which windows and doors are made. For the first time, window profile has been on allocation. Although it happens occasionally in products such as bricks, PVC profiles have never been on allocation.

Most UK profile extrusion companies are supplied by the same resin producer, a part of the Ineos group, so they are all having trouble getting enough resin to maintain their production. Lead times are extending across the industry as production is restricted by profile supply. Reasons include difficulties restarting resin production after maintenance shutdowns. The price of resin is also being sharply raised in anticipation of Brexit.

Crystal is having a strong November and like much of the industry, we have a healthy order book as people continue to stay home and improve their properties. Conservatories are seeing a strong demand spike as an effective way to increase living space without the planning permission needed for an extension. As more people work from home conservatories are an easy way to add extra living space to compensate.

Online capability is becoming very important and – I agree with Andy Scothern of eCommonSense in the Q2 BMBI report – online is not just a website; it needs to run through the whole business. Recently Jewson invested and escalated its online services during lockdown to great effect, and now supplies a new range from Crystal.

Currently, many merchants’ customers who need windows for a project go elsewhere to get them – as they do for trade paint (see Dulux comment). To help merchants access this market we now have seven Crystal Window Centres, which are manned units at merchants to help them promote and sell.

Crystal is optimistic that strong demand will continue into 2021, and we’re investing in our own manufacturing capacity with new machinery to enable us to fulfil it. Apart from profile supply problems, which we hope will be resolved, Q1 is looking good for the windows and doors sector.

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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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