Counter strike

Chris Coxon, head of marketing at Eurocell, looks at ‘asset management’ in the context of roofline, and what advantages a branch network brings to the installer.

One of the current trends in the private and social rented sectors is asset management, an approach that takes a more holistic look at property, and making specification decisions that will not only add value, but consider what the long-term impact is of certain product choices. Building professionals use this approach to choose building components, and it is a great tool for calculating the lowest cost options for the entire life of a building.

In the case of roofline products, it means that the end customer should look at maintenance costs, and the cost of access when assessing which materials to use. Updates to the Working at Height regulations mean that jobs that could once be done from a ladder, such as painting or replacing guttering, now require either scaffolding or cherry pickers – costly to hire, and more so when employing tradespeople.

It’s a fact of cellular PVCU roofline product life that it has often been treated as a commodity system, and promoted on price alone, rather than quality and its features and benefits: a high, gloss aesthetic; extremely long-life cycles; and the ‘workability’ of traditional materials without the longevity drawbacks.

Yet the asset management approach above implies that the five main roofline elements – fascias, gutters, soffits, bargeboards and boxends – warrant increasing consideration from the quality perspective, especially if handling repeat contract and maintenance work as a way of imparting best or added value to the customer.

Products that meet these criteria will often carry a 10-year or 20-year guarantee as well as being manufactured by companies that have some history behind them. These products may not be the cheapest option in the short term, but will reduce hassle and bills for repair and maintenance; and increase customer satisfaction and perception of your approach to quality.

However, regardless of quality and price concerns, one major factor crucial to roofline supplies is availability. Online is all well and good – as is 24 or 48-hour delivery – yet there’s no substitute for speed than walking in to a trade counter.

And while it may appear the world has moved online, Eurocell is pursuing an aggressive branch strategy – and aggressive it is, with opening over 30 new branches this year alone, bringing the total to over 190.

Of course, online shopping has its many and various virtues, and it’s hard to knock. It’s plainly marvellous, and transformed all our personal and professional lives. Yet there are certain things it can’t do as well as a ‘real life’ experience. So here are a few reasons while it still pays to live in a ‘bricks and mortar’, rather than purely ‘clicks and mortar’, world.

In store, you can mind the quality and feel the width simultaneously. OK, that might not matter for some goods – a paperback is a paperback – yet it often pays to be able to handle, lift and feel the goods you are buying. It makes for a much more informed choice and reduces waste. Online it is easy to shop by style and, frequently, price – yet that is not necessarily the whole story as ‘goods in hand’ can reveal. Which brings us neatly to the next benefit of stores.

Returning goods bought online can be a faff – if there isn’t a real-life outlet to visit. Assuming that the vendor has been good enough to agree to the return and, better still, provide you with a free returns service, there is still the hassle of packaging the thing back up and either arranging a collection and/or visiting the corner shop or a branch of McColl’s to drop it off. Then you have to wait for your money back – around a week at least – and start the purchase process over again.

If returning branch bought goods, you not only get your money back straight away, you can replace the offending item there and then.

Branches boot up instantly – the purchase process is an immediate one. Want it, need it, see it, buy it. Not good being stuck on a job on a Saturday morning and running out of something; what good is Amazon or an overnight delivery to you then? None, obviously. Branch counters are always open until Saturday lunchtime and, dare we say it, sheds open on Sundays too.

Certain things only happen in-store. While the internet is calling for your attention – promotion this, click-bait that – the fact remains that what goes on in store stays in store. There are discounts, promotions and other offers that are only available to those showing their faces.

Perhaps best of all, branches offer you personal service. Staff know the products and ranges better than anyone, so are best placed to help you make the right choice. When it comes to our ‘core’ offer, Eurocell can assist with measurement, specification, site matters and so on. When the project demands, it can even provide people to visit the job and ensure everything goes smoothly – especially on complex, multi-product, ‘multi-order’ jobs.

Even if you don’t need that kind of high-level intervention, there will always be the occasion when you might have to approach the counter, produce a widget from your pocket and say, “I need five of these”. And hopefully, the counter staff will know what it is, if it’s in stock, and if they can get one.