I may have seemed a bit of a party pooper during the past year or so as against a veritable tsunami of blinding optimism I seemed to be the only one that just thought it was ‘alright’. Of course, I may have been the only trade fabricator in the country that was having at best a mediocre time of it: keeping our heads above water and a stack better than just a couple of years earlier, but when everyone else appeared to be whoopin’ and hollerin,’ for us it was just…OK.
Now far be it for me to come across as cynical but I did begin to wonder if so much of all that ‘happy clappy’ stuff in the mags was the result of too many magic mushrooms or, more likely, a surfeit of window trade PR people winding their clients up….”No, I really don’t advise telling the truth….”
However, I am delighted to say that for much of this year, the exception being the first month or so, we have been rammed to the point when we are looking for staff in all departments. Sales are really surging and look like they will continue that way for the foreseeable future.
I have thought about why this may be happening: the economy is stable and, despite the imminent EU Referendum – more of that later – whilst Dave might not be everyone’s cup of tea at least we know where we are in politics with no elections looming.
House prices continue to rise in the South East, still in alarming percentages in some areas but the increase in stamp duty is probably the key factor in reviving an ‘improve not move’ philosophy presently, which will of course always fuel home improvements. All products are on the up and bi-folds and conservatories are especially popular. Nice one…
There’s Class in Glass…
Neither of my readers is likely to know that IGU maker Tudor Glass is part of the burgeoning Williams Empire and I thought I would muse upon the trials and tribulations of making the stuff that fills in the gaps between the frames…
We bought Tudor around 8 years ago when the previous owners ran into a few problems. We did it because we liked and got on well with the husband and wife team of Mike and Di Blackmore that ran the business and indeed, they have continued with us at least until the untimely loss of Mike recently; a lovely man, a friend and sorely missed though fortunately we still have Di with us. We also wanted assured supply in a part of the industry that has been through considerable trials and tribulations in the region, with the crash of one major supplier and another major brand simply upping sticks and leaving.
We nursed the business back to strength and it has grown nicely over the years to the point where we have an excellent customer base that enjoys something more than stack ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap. We offer good prices, great service and, importantly, we are dependable. This is less a puff for the business than a statement of what I believe important for any business to offer.
We are at the point of significant expansion: 40% more space has been added and we need more kit. There, I have just invited the glass industry equivalent of a deluge of PPI calls…Joe, I have your number mate.
FIT was FUN
I visited The FIT Show with my trusty lieutenant Andy Linnett and spent two highly useful and informative days there; and one very lively evening in which we took in the marvellous Gala Dinner.
Having exhibited at the first event, being a visitor gave me a lot more freedom of course and I was amazed at our industry and how it has matured; the window, door and connie business is as developed and sophisticated as any out there; well run, mature businesses that are steered by imaginative, thoughtful and smart people. But as much as anything the sheer energy in those halls gave me a tingle…I love this industry and after FIT I am even more proud to be a part of it.
Every stand I saw had something new and there were some nice products to be seen: looking again at the marvellous Lumi window and door system – the one with the edge to edge, triple glazing from Northern Ireland based Apeer – I look back to the one that got away. I had the perfect and very substantial project for this a couple of years ago and before Lumi was invented – alas we lost it but Lumi would have won it for us, I am convinced.
A tad more down-to-earth and therefore likely to sell more in the estates of Essex, is Masterdor’s Craftsman solid timber doors, which really float my boat. Nice looking, classy, solid and great performance too.
This year’s FIT was also notable for the number of flush casements on show. Every systems company had them, mostly catching up with the amazing job done by those lovely people at Residence 9, who themselves launched The Residence Collection which introduces Residence 7, Residence 8 and Residence².
We happily sell R9 ourselves and it will be interesting to see how they are affected by what will become a very crowded market as everyone jumps on their bandwagon, not forgetting Evolution of course who claim fame for spotting this important niche first. The way I see it, R9 is there at the top of the pile with the others snapping at their heels. They are smart and passionate and it will be a fascinating battle to watch.
Preparing for Breurope…
As one might expect, I am all for getting out of Europe although the decision will have been made by the time this blurb is read. But I will take advantage of the space allowed me in this fine organ to make a point.
I export a decent lump to mainland Europe but also to other parts of the world, most notably Japan. My products are bought overseas because of their particular style and frankly, just like the majority of products exported by British companies, will not be affected in the slightest by any trade deals negotiated between governments. That is for stuff at the high end – steel maybe, oil, high end technology, arms and so forth – whilst the likes of me and most other business just get on with it.
That’s why I am heading off this weekend for my very first taste of camping. That’s right, a weekend under canvas. But while it is the novelty and the thought of setting up next to an unsuspecting mate that compels me, I am also using it as a trial for when I eventually have to flee my home as we become overrun because we stayed in the EU…
Up the revolution!