Published On: Wed, Aug 2nd, 2017

The accelerator pedal has been firmly put to the metal

The accelerator pedal on 2017 has been firmly put to the metal as in the blink of an eye we near the mid-way point of the year. With a number of political hurdles closing in, it has been a relief to see that their impact on consumer confidence is looking less disruptive than we previously anticipated. Home improvement activity is acknowledged to be directly related to consumer confidence, and there is no sign of a negative Brexit or pending-election effect – yet. Latest research from Barbour ABI has revealed that in every area of England there has been a significant rise in the number of planning applications. The cycle of consumer spending trends is accelerating through its peaks and troughs, and we now find ourself in a period of higher than normal consumer spending and the return of the trend for ‘improve rather than move’ forced upon families by soaring house prices.

Every few years we enter the same economic period, in which home improvement companies report favourable trading conditions. There is however one stand-out difference this time around. It’s a situation that has been facilitated by the fenestration sector and one that should benefit many in our industry. Previously there has been a distinctive gap between products that have been created for high-end ‘Grand Design’ projects and those that match the budgets of the middle to lower ends of the market. This isn’t to say homeowners haven’t desired these design-led products, they have just been priced out of the market. There are three factors in place today that have influenced the changing landscape of the marketplace. (1) Consumers are now willing to pay more for windows and doors; (2) architecturally influenced products have become more realistically priced and (3) there is increased availability and choice. When you look back at the latest Barbour ABI research, it is also important to acknowledge that there has been a significant rise in permitted development projects in the UK. When these are added to the increased number of successful planning applications, it reveals a significant number of projects that heavily feature windows, doors and roof structures.The fenestration industry has been working extremely hard to bring to market aspiration products that match homeowners’ budgets. Until only recently, slimline aluminium windows, roof lanterns and minimalistic sliding doors were only for the rich and famous. A quick look on the Rightmove website displays a fantastic barometer of how the existing housing stock is being improved. It is now commonplace for anything from a three-bedroom semi to a standard detached property to feature an extension with a roof lantern, wide-span sliding or bi-folding doors. The message is clear for retailers and installers: you need no longer feel inhibited offering these products to the average customer. With realistic supply prices you can now help homeowners realise their dream of turning their three-bedroom semi into a design-focused dream home.

John CowieEditor