Buyers’ market

Nathan Court
Nathan Court

Sternfenster’s sales director, Nathan Court, explains why it is an exciting time to be installing bi-fold doors.

There was a lot of apprehension as we returned to work after Christmas, because so many forces appeared to be working against our industry: the cost-of-living crisis, energy price rises, high inflation, higher interest rates, cooling housing market – all things that all screamed ‘this is going to be a tough year!’.

But as we approach the halfway point of 2023, I find myself increasingly excited, because while other companies were preparing for a worst-case scenario, we focused on all those things that every forward-thinking business should be focusing on: product development, customer support, and improved service levels.

Sternfenster will be turning 50 next year, which means our products have been made for the trade for half a century. We didn’t get here by accident. Key to our success is the close relationship we have with our customers, and understanding how we can make them more profitable.

As a result, we identified three areas where installers would benefit from an improved service from their key supplier – quick, complete delivery; quick installation; and quick payment – and we made it our mission to help our customers achieve these goals. And we did this by providing what suits them – not what suits us.

Let’s take our Visofold 1000 bi-fold door as an excellent case in point. We know that aluminium bi-fold door sales remain strong, and we can supply products that are warm, secure, and let in lots of light. We can also supply them to site in just five days. And thanks to our inhouse glass shop, we can supply those doors complete with the glazing and other products, such as the casement windows – all in five days.

This is what 50 years in the industry has taught us: you may get interest with a headline offering, but in the real world, installers need complete orders and consistency across all product ranges. If you keep returning to site to meet the deliveries for the separate components of a project, you will eat directly into your profit margin because each of those journeys costs money.

So confident are we with this five-day offer that we will take £100 off your next bi-fold order if we miss it (subject to conditions). We are confident because of the changes we have made over the course of the last year, and we are now achieving an OTIF figure of 97% – even with all the supply issues we’ve been facing.

Once those products are on site, you don’t want to pay your fitters for unnecessary time spent installing them. This why we’ve partnered with Smarts to offer a re-engineered product that comes with easy knock-in beads, adjustable hinges, and co-extruded gaskets. Thanks to these improvements, your time on site can be reduced dramatically.

Thanks to complete orders, delivered with the corresponding glazing and windows, and no installation delays thanks to modern engineered products, your customers are going to be left happy. This means you will get paid quickly.

After 50 years we know what installers want, and we’ve designed our internal processes to be in step with them. This is why we support them with a virtual showroom and online quoting engine, why we’ve simplified all our communications with SF+, and why all orders go through a comprehensive quality control procedure, which is then photographed and checked against the order so nothing is missed.

It’s these details that matter, and it is why working in the window and door industry today is so exciting. We’ve been through the period of high demand, where managing growing order books was a struggle in itself, and now we are getting back to selling quality items, backed by excellent service. It’s that difference that we are prepared to be judged on.