The Crystal Group comment: Q4 2018

Steve Halford, Group Managing Director The Crystal Group is BMBI’s Expert for PVC-U Windows & Doors.

The total market for PVC-U windows and doors is slow growing and mature, but it’s a relatively young and fast-growing market for merchants who are pushing on an open door, selling windows and doors to builder customers who buy everything else from them. Merchants’ enquiries for PVC-U windows, doors and conservatories were up 115% in Q4 2018 compared with Q4 2017. Orders rose nearly 80%. Compared with the previous quarter enquiries were up over 50% and orders by over 22%.

When builders’ merchants sell with the right package and toolkit, builders switch for convenience and added value.

But what is the right package? It’s not basic product, limited choice, long lead times or low price. Builders are used to a wide range of bespoke product, and a good choice of colour, delivered in a short time. Like us, they live off their smart-phones so they know what’s available, and they expect to get it. They know what a PVC-U window looks like, but they’re less familiar with its finer points and they install less often than a window installer, so they may need reminding of best practice to ensure trouble-free fitting and reliable performance in use.

They may want to bring, or send, their customer in to choose the products they could have, just as if they were buying a kitchen or bathroom, so a showroom is a key part of the merchant’s package. From the increasing interest in our showrooms – typically we’re getting two requests a week for new designs, large and small – it’s clear that merchants are responding appropriately to the opportunity.

Some builders measure and fit themselves, others get someone they know to do it for them, while for others a complete measure, supply and fit service is ideal. We are currently running a trial launch and seeing strong demand for this full ‘supply and fit’ merchant solution, with 30 projects completed in Q4 2018. The trial is continuing in Q1 2019 before a full national launch.

I tried to avoid the B word! But to confirm, Crystal manufacturers in the UK using components made and supplied from the UK, so we’re as well prepared as we can be for Brexit.

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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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