Published On: Mon, Apr 30th, 2018

Sarah Hitchings, Sales & Marketing Director, Windows Division, DW3

First Job: Legal Secretary.

When did you join current company: I joined in 2014.

Most useful/favourite gadget: The GoodNotes app on the iPad.

Favourite/most useful website: Aside from! It would be which converts colour values – very useful for InDesign!

Business person you admire: Michelle Mone (Baroness Mone, OBE).

Recommended hotel for business: Any of the Malmaison chain, always an excellent wifi connection and good value for money.

Favourite UK restaurant: Manchester House.

Best business decision: The Residence Collection branding.

Other interests: CrossFit, interior design, snowboarding, travelling.


Working Week: The fundamentals of my day include checking emails, attending meetings, and general conversations and phone calls with colleagues and customers. I meet with my departmental managers once a week, which typically includes a discussion about their teams, key projects and objectives. Once a month we have a Windows Division board meeting, for which we prepare and discuss an information pack. I keep in regular contact with our key accounts and aim to visit at least two customers per month. I also liaise frequently with the external sales team, gaining market insight into their areas and updates on their customers. And I review and feedback on creative work from the marketing team on a daily basis.

Working Location: Our offices are on a modern industrial estate in Gloucestershire. We have the benefit of having factory, warehousing and offices on one site, which allows the team to work efficiently and builds strong working relationships. There are several large whiteboards on the walls of my office, along with lots of notices and advertising artwork. I am also surrounded by product and marketing samples. It’s a very creative space!


With the launch of R9, we identified and tapped into a premium market that wanted the look of traditional timber windows with all the benefits of today’s modern materials. It’s still the only PVC-U window to give planners the dimensions and comprehensive detailing they demand in conservation areas. Homeowners love it because it looks like hardwood, but it’s not as expensive. Its performance is on another level too: with nine equally-spaced internal chambers within the 100mm profile, its energy-efficiency and U-values far surpass Building Regulation requirements. Sales growth has been extremely positive over the past twelve months. While the mass market is now flat to declining, the premium market is growing strongly, and has excellent potential to continue its upward trend. Recently we launched Residence 7 (R7), aimed at the market for contemporary homes and self-build. R7 windows are beautifully flush outside and in and suit a range of architectural styles – they can be mechanically jointed for a traditional look or welded for a more contemporary feel. And of course they are very energy-efficient, with seven chambers within the 75mm profile.

Tapping in to homeowner trends – Through the success of R9, we could see there was a ‘premium mass market’ of homeowners wanting to trade up their windows without needing the 100mm profile or 19th Century detailing of R9 – and so R7 was launched. It has proved so popular, and has driven such commitment from installers, that some fabricators (for example Climatec Windows and Stedek Windows & Doors) have set up dedicated factories to make R7 and R9. We’ve also anticipated and met a growing homeowner demand for colour – including more unusual colours which have set a trend in the industry – and we offer the widest range from stock. Sales of colour windows now account for 75% of our business. Meanwhile, R Squared (R2), launched at the same time as R7, has the slim looks, strength and wide colour choice of aluminium, but the warmth, energy efficiency, affordability and availability of PVC-U. It makes big warm windows and strong tall doors. All this has allowed us to achieve a fantastic 20% year-on-year sales growth in a market that has been described as ‘flat’ (although it has been estimated that in the first half of 2017 the overall market was over 5% down on the same period last year).

Customer support and service – While beautiful products and a receptive market have been instrumental in driving this stonking growth, we’ve supported it with significant investment in consumer lead generation and point of sale marketing to help installers sell to homeowners. This includes PR, SEO, e-shots, and online ads – as well as a digital brochure that is widely used by installers and fabricators on their own websites. We also introduced a new folder to hold hard copy brochures, official supplier stickers and colour swatches as well as a pocket for quotes and orders. This has proved hugely popular with fabricators and installers and set the bar for marketing support from windows systems companies. Coupled with this investment is our continuous drive to provide a market leading service to customers. This means Residence fabricators and, through them, installers get what they order when they order it and can grow at their own pace. Along with changes to our operations to improve efficiency, we’ve expanded our fleet to six dedicated lorries and drivers. This has led to steady improvements in our On Time In Full (OTIF) delivery rate this year – which is now running at 98.7%.

Quality down to the last detail – This end-to–end focus on quality is one of the reasons I love working for DW3. And it’s this focus that has driven the success of Residence’s sister company, Window Widgets. Window Widgets is the UK’s leading manufacturer of ancillaries – six out of ten fabricators use us. We do exactly what the name suggests: provide the widgets that make windows work! The term ‘ancillaries’ belies how important these products are. Couplers, jacks, baypoles, cills, trims, and fixing lugs aren’t extras or accessories – they’re essential to make windows work. Having the best quality products available at the right time is crucial for window fabricators and installers, and that’s where Window Widgets excels. We’re so passionate about our product range – it’s huge, with more than 500 different products, in 20 different groups. No other supplier has such a diverse selection, with up to 25 colours for relevant products. We reflect the growing market trend for colour, and recently launched Smooth Slate Grey and Anthracite Grey, with Jet Black coming soon. The team regularly ‘goes beyond’. For example, a fabricator needed a solution that didn’t exist: so we designed, manufactured, and delivered the product within a week! In another example, a fabricator forgot to order a trim to be sent with a window the next day. We met him halfway up the M6 with the trim so he didn’t let his customer down. This dedication and focus on quality and service has seen Window Widgets take on 65 new customers since January.

People power – It might sound clichéd, but underpinning the success of The Residence Collection and Window Widgets is a team of extremely talented people. The past year has seen a strong focus on transparency of leadership and giving workers ownership of their individual performance, as well as that of the company as a whole. There have been many operational improvements as a result, led by our Customer Service Manager Nick Trueman and Warehouse and Transport Manager Chris Follows and their teams. Recruitment and promotions have further strengthened sales and operations. As well as my own recent promotion, we’ve promoted Gregory Pigott to Commercial Director, and Josh Newell has been appointed as Business Development Director – and there are further plans to expand the sales team internally and externally. The wider management team has also been strengthened by the appointment of Richard Bonner as Operations Manager, and Michael Hart as Technical Manager. It’s no mean feat to buck market weakness and deliver impressive growth, and it’s testament to this investment in people, which has been repaid in spades through exceptional performance. If there were one piece of advice I could offer to other directors in these turbulent times it would be to truly empower your people, while having a laser-like focus on delivering what your customers want, when they want it.