Published On: Tue, Nov 7th, 2023

A strong supply chain is key to happy customers says Natalie Witczak

A strong supply chain is key to happy customers, Natalie Witczak, Connaught Windows’ Senior Business Manager tells readers of Windows Active.  Bournemouth-based Connaught Windows is a family-run Deceuninck fabricator, which has discovered that a personal approach to business not only creates stability but creates new opportunities for their customers.

“Since we started fabricating windows in 1994, we’ve continued to make our staff and our customers feel like they’re part of the family,” Connaught Windows’ Senior Business Manager Natalie Witczak says. “It’s personal to us. As a family-run business, we want to offer the service that we want to receive ourselves.”

The decision was made very early on to offer a supply-only service to the trade, moving over to Deceuninck in 2006, and launching their own glass line. “We supply our customers with everything they need to run their businesses, and keep their customers happy,” Natalie says. “A key decision for moving over to Deceuninck was so that we could offer a chamfered system, a decorative system, the Slider 24, French doors, and residential doors. And we supply these alongside an aluminium range, vertical sliders and conservatory roofs.”

Connaught Windows expanded very quickly in its first decade-and-a-half as it invested heavily to position itself as a key supplier to customers in southern England.

“Providing everything under one roof was absolutely vital for us,” Natalie says. “Partnering with Deceuninck is key on the PVC-U product ranges, and it enables us to make it easier for our customers to buy from us. We want to give them that choice.

“We have also found that because we only supply to the trade – large retail companies, small fitting teams and housebuilders – we earn loyalty because we are not competing with our customers.”

Natalie says this is supported by a personal service, such as meeting unusual demands, quick remakes, and even technical support on larger projects. “We will help with marketing support such as brochures, websites, showroom products and even transport livery,” Natalie says. “We build special relationships so they want to come back.”

As the business has grown, this approach to winning and keeping customers has meant that the business has overcome challenges and discovered opportunities in sometimes unusual places. “During Covid I’ve never seen it as busy as it was,” she says. “When we returned after the lockdown, I only brought back a skeleton crew, but after the first couple of days I had to bring everyone back. Fortunately, we’ve got lots of open space and we could operate in a safe environment. But that initial worry was unnecessary, and we gone from strength to strength since then. A lot of people decided to make improvements on their homes instead of going away on holiday.”

Natalie explains that this drove-up demand for foils and colours, because immediately after the pandemic homeowners were looking primarily to improve their home’s looks. This added extra pressure to an industry that was already struggling to cope with an increase in demand.

“Everyone was surprised,” Natalie says. “Fortunately, we weren’t badly affected because Deceuninck kept up their colour supply – across all their ranges, which was very important – and lead times were kept to under four weeks.

“Some fabricators really struggled to get colour at all from their suppliers, and when then could get it, it was on a ten-week lead time. As a result, we gained some new customers. So, using Deceuninck definitely helped, and we continue to have an excellent working relationship with them.”

Deceuninck offers 30+ colourways ex-stock and 20 additional colours in just 15 working days. Deceuninck fabricators also sell, on average, twice as much colour as their competitors, and in some cases it accounts for as much as 60% of their total output. Natalie says that more recently at Connaught Windows there has been an increase in government-funded work with housing associations and schools driving up demand for new windows and doors. As a result, Connaught decided to get all products testing to PAS24, and have received a Gold award from CEN Solutions. 

“We are always looking to see where we can offer a better service or a better product,” Natalie says. “Builders, developers and architects look for these kinds of certificates, and we’ve won a lot of interest lately because it.”

Another new source of work for Connaught Windows is export, with white chamfered windows being the most popular product. “We’ve exported to the Channel Islands, Falkland Islands, France, Spain, and we’ve got windows in Indonesia and Hawaii,” Natalie says. “And we’ve just been pricing up for a job in the Caribbean as well, which is incredible for PVC-U windows here, made in the south!” 

Tel: 01249 816 969