A glass revolution

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell considers the slowly expanding National Glass Group.

There’s a quiet revolution taking place in the glass industry: the growth of the National Glass Group (NGG).

This week we announce that the collective has welcomed two new members into its fold: Crystal Units based in the south east, and Ecoglass situated in East Anglia

At this year’s FIT Show, I was a bystander as two glass processing professionals, both from well-established independent firms, discussed the difficulty in competing with the largest glass processing companies (particularly of IGUs). Their main gripe was that the size of their competitors allowed them to be far more aggressive on price – particularly because of their buying power.

Many firms build up a loyal following of customers who appreciate the benefits of buying from a smaller company – which could include a more personalised service, closer proximately, a willingness to offer a more bespoke service, etc – but are always faced with the threat that they are sometimes just a few pence away from losing them.

The principles behind NGG are not new, but when it was established as a response to a perceived fear that too much control lay in the hands of the glass suppliers, it quickly gained traction, and it now represents 25% of flat glass purchases in the UK.

Collectively the members employ more than 800 people across 12 sites, boasts annual purchases exceeding £30 million, which makes it the largest independent buyer of sheet glass in the UK.

In other words, it puts the smaller firms on a more level footing as their much larger competitors, taking price out of the decision-making process for customers. Furthermore, all NGG members remain fully independent.

Could its success in the glass processing sector mean that we could see something similar happen in other areas of the industry?