Busy but strained

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell unpicks the difficulties faced by fenestration companies during 2020.

When the world stopped on March 23, 2020, we all felt that sense of trepidation: how will this affect my business, my employees, my colleagues, my family?

From that moment, we expected a difficult 2020; deep down we knew that normality wouldn’t be resumed until an effective vaccine was deployed.

However, when we woke up on March 24, none of us expected neither the surge in demand that was to follow, nor the strains placed upon the supply chain.

This week, Fensa published a survey that found the anecdotal evidence that was so readily shared on social media and the trade press was indeed rooted firmly in fact.

Fensa discovered that 19 out of 20 fenestration firms experienced problems with supplies in the second half of 2020, which was coupled with a significant increase in demand from homeowners.

Fensa completed a survey of more than 6,200 approved English and Welsh installers as part of a commitment to measure business levels, opinions, and prospects from the front line.

Carried out in November and December 2020, the exercise sought to take a snapshot of the market from the installer’s perspective following the end of the first lockdown in May, and to compare the results against anecdotal information carried in the press and online.

It found that three-quarters of companies said that work levels have been good or very good since returning to work.

This rose to 81.7% when companies were questioned about demand from homeowners throughout the second half of the year. And while a significant number appear to have not enjoyed the increase in business, the number of Fensa installations registered for the last six months of the year supports the positive response reported by the majority.

The strong market performance was however mitigated by severe issues with the supply chain, with 94.4% of installers saying that they had experienced problems and delays with supplies. Despite this, 66.7% of respondents were optimistic that demand would continue for the foreseeable future.

“The industry is incredibly busy and Fensa Approved Installers are winning a huge amount of work,” Chris Beedel, Fensa’s director of membership, said.

“[We are] seeing workloads higher than the same period for 2019 and, with the majority of companies expecting current work levels to continue in 2021, is very encouraging for the industry.”

Chris also said Fensa was cautiously optimistic because there are a number of factors outside of its control.

Managing director of GGF Commercial Group Anda Gregory, said: “Installers have been severely tested. From having their businesses closed almost overnight, followed by welcome but unexpected strong demand, they have risen to the occasion.

“Lead levels being generated through the Fensa website remain strong and this, coupled with approved installers’ performance throughout last year, suggest that the buoyant market conditions will continue, despite the difficulties imposed by the pandemic.”