Kevin Tolson, Commercial Director Wienerberger UK is BMBI’s Expert for Bricks & Roof Tiles.
Against the backdrop of a battered economy and increasing unemployment, with manual jobs particularly affected, the brick and tile businesses have not escaped the damage to the construction industry. With the UK economy now officially entering recession, there are further challenges ahead.
However, with a focus on new building programmes in housing, social and community projects plus incentives such as the green deal and the stamp duty holiday, demand returned surprisingly soon to pre-Covid-19 levels by the end of Q2.
There is also a very encouraging demand for design and technical services. Being able to supply services and technical expertise, not just product, is where manufacturers can differentiate and add real value. While architects, specifiers and planners may be gradually returning to their office-based practices and workplaces, there is still a lack of face-to-face opportunities with customers. Being able to efficiently support those working remotely or in the workplace with improved and increased digital assets, technical data, and guidance is the game changer. The appetite for virtual support has risen, and as we saw in Q1, those with the ability to invest and develop their digital services will do well.
The desire for improved green space and ‘healthy homes’ with improved air quality is another trend. Anyone locked down in their home during very hot weather will be acutely aware of the need to have access to green space for physical exercise and mental wellbeing. Being able to support designers and builders in creating a healthy and energy efficient building envelope is where manufacturers can help change communities for the better.
A complete recovery may be some way ahead. The benefit of our industry, even during low times, is that we serve a very broad range of customers and market segments. Contraction in one area sees expansion in another. As long as we continue to mobilise quickly and continue to focus on quality products and innovative solutions, we should be in a position to benefit from an economic uplift.