Published On: Tue, Jun 18th, 2024

Empowering medium and small installation firms

As the physical assets of Everest Windows go under the auctioneer’s hammer, the fenestration industry loses another retail heavyweight. It’s been a dramatic couple of years for the large-scale retail glazing sector—Safestyle and now Everest, two of the dominant forces, have ceased trading. This leaves Anglian Home Improvements as the only true national retail brand in operation. Anglian has moved to secure the order books of both Safestyle and Everest. It announced, “The joint administrators have now reached an agreement to sell certain assets to Anglian Home Improvements. While the terms of the agreement are being finalized, the joint administrators have entered a subcontractor arrangement that will enable customer orders to be fulfilled by Anglian where possible. This will ensure all Everest customers impacted by the company’s insolvency will have the opportunity to carry out their home improvement projects.” Peter Mottershead, executive chairman of Anglian Home Improvements, also added that Anglian would honor the terms of the homeowners’ Everest contracts, including the price, that had previously been agreed with each customer.

Much has been written on industry forums about the demise of Everest. As we reflect on this latest business failure, it is important to spare a thought for the employees of the company. The order processors, fabricators, sales teams, fitters, estimators—the list is endless of hard-working people who relied on Everest for their livelihood. There is hope that the majority can be absorbed into the workforces of firms operating in the fenestration sector.

The impact on the wider fenestration community and the overall market is intriguing. The retail sector has traditionally been dominated by medium and small firms, often privately owned, who rely on their reputation in their local area. However, homeowners were often drawn to the large national retail brands that dominated the national media space and flooded letterboxes and inboxes with endless promotional offers. Consumers’ mindsets were shaped by their experiences in other retail sectors where big brands dominated the market. A big brand stood for safety, honesty, good value, and reputability—all incredibly important when consumers are making significant purchases. It was only a few years ago when household brands such as Tesco and John Lewis looked to capitalize on the growing popularity of windows and doors by leveraging their own super brand status with installation offerings. However, the window industry is very different, as Tesco soon discovered when it tried to ‘drive a horse and cart through the window and door installation sector’—a short-lived venture.

What makes the fenestration sector fantastically unique is its composition—not too dissimilar from an inverted triangle, where the larger firms feed down to the smaller firms who have overall control of the sector’s volume and sales. The demise of Everest and Safestyle has probably now led to a situation where 96%+ of retail sales of windows, doors, and glazed extensions are carried out by local and regional installation businesses. This makes the sector incredibly adaptable as these small firms have lower overheads and can offer better value to homeowners. This is crucial as the cost-of-living crisis continues to strain the budgets of the majority of homeowners. It is important these homeowners understand the benefits of using a local installation firm, or you will end up with a situation that was shared with me recently. A homeowner was quoted £2,400 for a composite door from a national retailer, compared to £1,600 from a local installer for a higher specification door. The homeowner couldn’t afford the £2,400 and was perplexed by how a ‘man-in-a-van’ could offer more for less, misunderstanding the layers of costs often associated with large retailers. Ultimately, they rejected both offers.

While the news of Everest’s collapse is devastating for many, I believe it will strengthen the sector and empower the large number of medium and small installation firms that are at the heart of the fenestration sector. In addition, the adaptability and nimbleness of these companies will also encourage the introduction of new products by suppliers.

John CowieEditor