Published On: Mon, Jun 16th, 2014

Every cloud has a silver lining

overcrowdingThe business management book ‘Who Moved My Cheese’ illustrates perfectly that if you stand still in business, you run the risk of losing your customers. Being up to date with the market you are operating in is of utmost importance in ensuring medium and long-term existence. So what is happening in the UK today that we should be concentrating on to improve the prospects of our businesses? Data from the Bank of England has revealed an intriguing situation that has a direct impact on the home improvements market. Between April and June this year £15.4 billion was shaved off mortgage debt, the largest three-month reduction since 1970. The reasons are two-fold: homeowners overpaying their mortgages and adding value to their properties with home improvements. In fact, record numbers are deciding to improve properties through extensions, new kitchens, conservatories and new windows and doors. A sea-change in attitudes has been stirred by the recession; the Bank of England says that between 2001 and 2008, mortgage debt was growing. Now it is in reverse as homeowners invest in their properties, with the consequence that the increased value achieved reduces the mortgage debt in relative terms. Couple this with the rising cost of moving through stamp duty and the swelling of house prices, it is easy to see why staying put is the preferred option.

Predictions of an increase in the aging population will also have a huge impact on the retail landscape. The Silver Linings Report by Building Futures, the think tank of the Royal Institute of British Architects, claims that the number of over 60s will rise by 40 per cent over the next 20 years. Importantly, Buildings Futures puts emphasis on the key role this group will have in changing and driving the economy forward in the future. Living longer and leading healthier lives are going to be key characteristics of this generation, and as a result they will no longer be in the minority but will have key roles to play in the families of the future. Extended families will become the norm, and with them will be the need for larger homes where up to three generation may need to live. The Report states: “With all generations being squeezed financially, an ever-tighter familial interdependency is being forged in some quarters, with increasing numbers of extended families living under one roof – something that became increasingly alien in British society towards the end of the 20th Century.”

It adds that by 2030 it will be almost impossible for young adults to own their home, meaning that there will be immense pressure on the need for families to live together. We will almost see the UK following the German model where it is not uncommon to see three or four generations living in the same dwelling. What we can learn from this is that this offers more reasons for families and homeowners to make the most of their existing properties. Extending the home will become more prevalent, and probably easier if planning restrictions continue to be relaxed. We in the fenestration industry need to make sure we have the products that allow us to tap into this potentially lucrative market. The market is moving and changing; we just need to make sure we are gravitating in the right direction, and not left asking, ‘Who moved my market?’