Good looking and efficient

Mark Schlotel, marketing director at Victorian Sliders, considers which window attributes are turning customer heads in today’s second time replacement market.

The FIT Show 2017 was a showcase for our industry, full of innovation and forward-looking vision, that demonstrated without question that to be successful in today’s market fenestration products need to deliver a winning combination of technology and aesthetic appeal. Good looks are crucial, but with an array of practical features and benefits on both the inside and the outside.

Nowhere is this combination of aspirational appeal and installed performance more essential than in the replacement window market. In the UK, most windows have now undergone first-time replacement. Single-glazed timber, hot-rolled steel or early versions of extruded aluminium windows have largely been replaced with double-glazed PVCU alternatives, with obvious energy-saving benefits provided by improved thermal insulation but often at the expense of original design aesthetics.

Ugly and inappropriate replacement PVCU windows, including the ‘death-trap’ combination of top hung casements over fixed lights that grace so many bedroom windows up and down the land, are in effect a godsend because they provide a stimulus for swapping out old for new once again. In UK homes, modern PVCU sash windows are often the most appropriate solution to right these design wrongs.

The second-time replacement market poses a challenge for us all. D&G Consulting’s Post-Brexit Report, published in autumn 2016, correctly identified the shrinking first-time replacement market (just 17% of demand in 2015) and increasing second-time replacement market (now 40% of demand), with remaining volumes provided by extensions, conservatories and new builds.

“The potential for the industry is in making even more progress in second-time replacements,” the report said. “However, a second-time replacement is rarely a distress purchase, so the consumer is not coming to the industry – the industry has to vigorously go to the consumer.”

At Victorian Sliders, we have 14 eye-catching mobile demonstration vans operating in UK regions as part of an additional £1.5 million investment in increased sales and marketing initiatives, designed to stimulate consumer demand for our sash windows and trigger opportunities to quote for our professional trade installer customers; we are energetically taking our products to our installer customers and their homeowner clients.

We are doing this because we want to offer the very best field sales support to help professional trade installers win retail sales. The ‘ECOSlide Experience’ enables our direct purchasing customers and new prospect customers to appraise the impressive quality of our ECOSlide PVCU vertical sliding sash windows at first hand. Everyone who steps onto one of our demo vans discovers an unbeatable combination of appealing good looks, easy-to-use operating hardware, practical window cleaning and security features, excellent thermal performance and value for money.

Energy efficiency is a prime consideration but the plain truth is that this is now a given in today’s marketplace. First-time replacements from the 80s onwards were all sold with the promise of keeping our miserable cold British weather at bay and retaining precious central heating warmth. Today’s ‘smart DG’ solutions, delivering A-rated windows as standard (as indeed we do at Victorian Sliders using high performance 24mm IGUs for optimum thermal efficiency), provide the best combination of excellent performance-in-use with appropriate and elegant design aesthetics.

It is the extra added factors that truly engage homeowners in 2017. Low-maintenance frames with sculptured Ovolo PVCU profiles, beautiful woodgrain foil finishes and truly practical features such as an easy-clean tilt-opening mode.

Adding more detailed features, such as an extruded anti-jemmy bar cill design, toughened glass in both top and bottom sashes supplied as standard, and exclusively designed operating hardware, all adds up to a compelling offer.