Published On: Thu, Mar 7th, 2024

Digging deep into data tells us what we want to hear

With the cobwebs firmly dusted off and 2024 starting to get into full swing, it’s been a positive start to the year for many businesses in the sector. The signs are also encouraging if you dig deep into the latest set of data relevant to the construction sector and focus on areas of positivity. An example is the latest S&P Global UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index, which reveals that UK construction companies indicated a strong improvement in business activity expectations in January, with optimism reaching its highest level in two years. Within this optimism, there is a more downbeat sentiment being felt by the housebuilding sector, with a sharp downfall due to subdued demand conditions and the lack of work to replace completed projects. This trend is also backed up by a significant fall in brick deliveries in the UK, as highlighted in the latest ONS figures, a point recently picked up by Sky News’ Economics Editor Ed Conway, who questioned whether this was a ‘possible bellwether of things to come in the housing market?’

Housebuilding in the UK has always been a hot topic, and for the glazing sector, it often provides a useful benchmark of the state of the residential market. With a lack of new housing, demand for existing housing remains strong, and with this comes an increase in demand for repairing, improving, and maintaining existing properties. Fenestration is a key element of this process. The value of improving a home with new glazing has been enhanced by the drive towards greater energy efficiency. Latest figures from Uswitch drive this message home by putting a value on upgrading windows in a home – stating the most lucrative upgrades adding value to an average house are triple glazing at £44,770.09 and double-glazing uplifting the value by £36,706.45. This should never be downplayed when selling windows and doors to homeowners. Improving the home is very much in the spotlight, a point being reinforced by the latest ‘Don’t Move, Improve’ programme, which celebrates the best home improvement projects. With a theme of ‘Reimagine the Home’, it celebrates the best projects that future-proof spaces, design adaptability, improve energy performance, and reimagine spaces.

Being confident in the positive impact windows and doors can have on the price of a home can help with the correct pricing of the installation. The industry, like so many in the construction sector, is under pressure from constantly rising costs. For manufacturers, it has been a challenging last 6 months with rises in energy and raw materials, coupled with the constant increase in wage demands. Latest Office for National Statistics figures show pay in the UK has risen by 6.2% in the last three months of 2023, while prices of windows and doors rose by 17.5% in the year to November 2023. We need to be realistic with customers, and link all this data together when selling them new windows and doors. This will then help maintain profitability in our sector.

Investment and innovation remain strong in the fenestration industry. Significant stories are abound highlighting many organizations’ commitment to business here in the UK. I viewed this firsthand recently when I visited a site I knew well and one steeped in PVC-U extrusion history. It was wonderful to see PVC-U extrusion rolling off the production lines in Huthwaite again. It was my first look at the Profine/Kömmerling facility, which has reignited a site that has a rich history in PVC-U extrusion. It was only a few years ago when Profine unveiled plans to extrude in the UK – and to see it all in action is wonderful and demonstrates a firm commitment to the UK fenestration sector.