Is your business optimised to benefit from a new stream of work, asks Deceuninck Aluminium’s Director Nigel Headford.
For many window companies – especially those with a large stake in the commercial sector – all eyes will be on the Bank of England, and what they plan to do with interest rates over the coming months.
Inflation may start to come down (dropping to 6.7% in September), which may ease the pressure on homeowners, but analysts believe that it isn’t enough to prevent further rate rises.
While the news coming out of the home improvement sector continues to remain relatively positive – especially at the upper end of the market – the commercial market is appearing to stall as investors and developers resist tying themselves into deals while interest rates remain high.
“We’ve had a lot of recent success in the commercial sector, initially with our Decalu88 Bi-Folding Door, which can comply with Building Regulations with a double glazed unit,” Deceuninck Aluminium’s Director Nigel Headford says. “This has been boosted by our continued product range expansion, including the Decalu163 Lift-and-Slide Door and brand new Decalu88 Flush CasementWindow.
“But that market is definitely starting to slow as developments are put on hold.”
Nigel explains that every forward-thinking window company will maintain a mix of work so that when opportunities dry up in one sector, they are prepared to pick up work in another.
“And we are seeing the trade market hold its own,” Nigel says. “But we are also seeing another market emerge, one that is distinct from the traditional classifications of trade, newbuild and commercial.
“There is now a significant amount of work coming from bespoke designer homes. These projects can’t be classed as newbuild because they are usually single, or very limited, developments, and their value comes in way higher than what we would expect in typical higher refurbs in the retail sector.
These projects have always existed, Nigel says, but their prevalence today warrants their own special focus.
“Many of our customers are supplying to this market, either as manufacturers, installers, or both,” he says. “And they are treating it as separate to other commercial or residential work, including sourcing the right products – which is paying dividends.”
Nigel explains that Deceuninck Aluminium is working closely with one customer who regularly manages individual fenestration packages of £250K.
“We are seeing lots of these projects cross our desks, which have many features in common,” Nigel says. “They are often in exposed locations with excellent views, they require a suited appearance across doors, casement windows, and fixed lights, and they need to be class leading for weather and thermal performance.”
On the manufacturing side, Decalu is modular, requiring just three components rather than up to eight or more with other systems. This is achieved by a single outer frame and sash with identical middle section and slim sightline profiles, fully integrated thermal insulation and the use of co-extruded, pre-inserted gasket.
This modular approach allows for a significant reduction in stock holding, and means that Decalu is up to 40% quicker to manufacture than some competitor systems.
For the installer, the pre-inserted gasket allows them to glaze a sash in just a matter of minutes. Combined with two, 7mm fully adjustable jams that allow for 14mm of tolerance for out-of-square openings, it makes a huge difference in the amount of time it takes to complete an install.
“Decalu also comes in a marine grade finish, with dual colours, as standard,” Nigel says. “Perfect for those sought-after exposed locations, or those near the coast. This is an initial win during the pitching process, and allows companies to build in extra margin.
“And let’s not forget those statement pieces, such as the Decalu163 Lift-and-Slide Door, which can accommodate weights of up to 400kg per sash, maximising design reach: individual sashes can be manufactured to 3,900mm by 2,500mm, which gives the Decalu163 Lift-and-Slide the design potential to be comfortably manufactured to span openings of up to 4,000mm by 3,500mm long on a single track; 4,000mm by 7,000mm on a twin track; and 4,000mm by 10,500mm on the triple track option.”
Nigel says that he is seeing company owners alter their business models significantly to accommodate this stream of work. In one case, a manufacturer and installer of high-end aluminium products has taken on three apprentices to work in different roles, all supporting this particular market.
“There is also a different pace to this work,” Nigel concludes. “Lead times are longer, stock holding is reduced, and the performance expectations on products is much greater. But for those companies with the right support behind them, then this market is becoming a rich seam of work.”