Published On: Tue, Jul 14th, 2015

Insight Report reveals latest market figures

The latest Insight Report brings readers the true numbers that make up the UK window, door and conservatory sector

Number of Fabricators Per RegionThe Insight Report is one of the most anticipated and revealing reports to be published about the window, doors and conservatory market. Launched in 2012, the annual ‘Insight Report’ provides the clearest, most concise snapshot of window, door and conservatory companies in the UK. This report also includes the Insight Top 30, which highlights the 30 largest PVC-U fabricators by turnover and 30 strongest by net worth. The total revenue/turnover of the Top 30 represents almost £1billion, rising 6% from the previous year. Andrew Scott, Managing Director of the report’s publisher, Insight Data is very positive about its findings: “The pointers all look good for our industry. The entry level to the Top 30 has increased which reflects significant growth and financial performance. However, suppliers can’t become complacent – over 800 window companies ceased trading in 2014.”

Company hot spot

The Southern Counties is the UK hot spot for window companies, with 1,821 trading firms, followed closely by the East Midlands. The northern counties saw the highest net increase in firms with an additional 18 companies in the area, taking it to 862 firms. During 2014, Insight added 455 new companies and removed 819 that had ceased trading to and from its database. The year ended with 14,771 window, door and conservatory fabricators and installers on the Insight database. The number of companies that manufacture windows and doors (all materials) has stabilised, with a very small reduction overall (less than 0.5%). However, there is an underlying shift in product material, with a reduction in PVC-U fabricators. The number of PVC-U, aluminium or timber manufacturers now stands at 4,265 with the East Midlands having the highest number of fabricators and Northern Ireland the lowest number. More companies fabricate timber (2,334) than PVC-U (1,534) or aluminium (802). While the number of PVC-U fabricators has declined from 2,370 in 2008 to 1,534 in 2014, the average frame-count per fabricator has increased as companies on average improve production output in response to a general upturn in business. This still offers installers a massive choice of PVC-U window and door supply options.

One of the most notable changes in 2014 is ‘lifestyle fabricators’. Small companies producing under 50 frames per week had been content fabricating for themselves. However, there has been a significant swing away from manufacturing at this level, with the number of small fabricators dropping by 94. Meanwhile, the number of PVC-U fabricators making 500+ frames per week has increased by 15% to 123 companies. (65% of PVC-U fabricators (962) still manufacture 100 frames per week or less). There continues to be a shift towards aluminium among fabricators and installers, driven by demand for aluminium bi-folds and a renaissance in aluminium patio doors. Andrew Scott believes this is a significant trend: “The return of aluminium cannot be overlooked. This started with aluminium bi-folds but is now spilling over into domestic windows and doors, and we expect to see a major resurgence of aluminium patio doors.” The conservatory market suffered for several years, but in recent times has been reinventing itself driven by a chronic shortage of housing stock and rising house prices, as well as product innovation which is creating renewed consumer desire. Conservatories have evolved from classic bolt-on rooms with standard Victorian/Edwardian or lean-to roofs, through to more sophisticated ‘orangery’ style rooms and now to integrated, bespoke glazed extensions. Conservatory companies are witnessing increased demand for replacement roofs on existing conservatories from homeowners wanting better performance and aesthetics in their living space. It is interesting to note that the UK’s largest window and door retailer, Safestyle, has confirmed it is branching out into the conservatory market, but operating exclusively in the ‘replacement’ of existing conservatories, which they estimate to be 20,000 units a year. Demand is also rising for solid-roof solutions for both new and upgraded conservatories, and several conservatory fabricators are already reaping the benefits of manufacturing this type of product. The number of companies that fabricate composite doors continues to increase year-on-year, although only marginally in the last 12 months, reflecting a more stable and mature market. The number of fabricators now stands at 392.

Conservatory installers

The number of window, door and conservatory installers has increased again for another year and now stands at 12,609 firms. The landscape for installers is changing; many have now become home improvement companies rather than specialist window companies, and offer a wider range of products such as garage doors or roofline products. A return to economic growth in the UK has been good news for installers, but they also face new challenges with greater legislation and compliance, and competition from a fast growing sector – local builders. There are now over 22,000 local builders active in home improvements, extensions and self-build projects all of which can include windows, doors and conservatories. During 2014 the activity among builders has increased dramatically. With the growth of trade counter outlets, builders can now offer the same products Of the 12,609 installers, 10,706 buy-in products from a fabricator or trade-counter depot, while the remaining continue to fabricate and install. Diversification was an underlying theme of 2014. In addition to expanding into other home improvement products, installers increased their core product offerings. Aluminium windows and doors, including bi-folding doors and patio doors, are now offered by 4,834 installers, an increase of 291 compared to the previous year. But it isn’t all about aluminium; installers continue to promote premium PVC-U products including flush sash and coloured frames. Composite doors are now an established product offering among installers, however there is dramatic increase in the number of installers offering homeowners a choice of composite doors from different manufacturers.

The stand-out PVC-U product in 2014 was vertical sliding sash windows, with 7,495 installers now actively offering this product, an increase of 600 firms compared to 2013. New sectors are also high on the agenda for installers. Domestic replacement windows and doors may be the core business, but more installers are moving into light commercial and new-build, with over 7,100 installers stating they are active in new-build projects. The market is still dominated by small companies, with 8,600 installers fitting 1 to 25 frames per week. With greater competition from local builders who are now offering the same or similar products via trade-counter depots, installers are seeking other ways to differentiate their product offering. One way of doing this is a showroom, and it is interesting to note that after many years in decline, the number of companies with a showroom presence has risen sharply in the last two years and now stands at 3,473.

The single biggest shift in the window industry is in distribution channels. Trade counter depots supplying products directly to local installers, builders and other markets (including DIY or self-build) is the big growth market. Trade depots can be a wholesale/re-sell model, whereby the operators buy in products from manufacturers and sell through their trade counter (similar to a small Builders Merchant) or they can be vertically integrated whereby the manufacturer is operating their own outlet to supply local markets. There are now 816 window/door trade counter outlets across the UK, a rise of 44 depots in the last year, ranging from independent distributors to large national chains. The Insight Report provides a snapshot of the industry; it is not designed as an in-depth analysis or forecast. However, several trends are emerging from our review of the industry. The number of PVC-U fabricators continues to decline, but the rate of decline has slowed. Meanwhile, fabricators are diversifying, manufacturing a wider range of products and often in other materials. Fabricators and installers are both chasing higher value PVC-U solutions, from flush sash windows and colours, to vertical sliders. Andrew concludes: “The Insight Report highlights several underlying trends that are already impacting the window industry, but it is the growth of trade counters that is having most impact. For trade suppliers this opens up a huge new market by supplying general builders and small installers directly. This has created a new type of customer or category which we call ‘Builder Installer’.”

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