How are all these window companies going bust?

Danny Williams
Danny Williams

By Danny Williams, managing director, Pioneer Trading.

Everest has once again bitten the dust, this time seemingly for good, though rival Anglian has bought the brand and order books, as indeed it also did when Safestyle went south.

Everest last went pop in 2020, the result it said at the time, of staff being unable to make sales and installation visits to customer’s homes due to Covid restrictions. It took just a few weeks for the firm to roll over after lockdown was announced in March that year, only to be pre-packed and bought back by its private equity fund owners in time to enjoy the surge of orders that deluged our industry in the months that followed, though accompanied as it was by severe supply chain issues.

How then, buoyed by a fat order book that everyone in our industry benefitted from, did they not have the funds to continue now, a question that must be asked of all of the other well-known brands and others that have gone belly up during this past year or so?

What happened to the cash? Did these firms not build up a war chest, one that might sustain them through thinner times such as those we are currently experiencing?

That is what we are going through: ‘thinner’ times, not a ‘jump off the roof’ crash. A significant dip in the market for sure, but not one that should be wiping window and door companies from the face of the earth. I simply cannot understand how these firms are going bust.

Indeed, a man for whom I have total respect, Ryan Johnson of Emplas Group, said this in a recent editorial: “The start of this year has delivered exactly what we expected it to – a relatively lack lustre market in the face of still high, if falling inflation, and a stuttering new build sector.

“That’s contributed to a consensus that the market is probably down around 10 to 16%. That’s far from catastrophic but for those companies that haven’t invested and are perhaps overly reliant on labour, it’s created a definite pressure – and ultimately, vulnerability.”

He also added that there are signs that things might be about to improve. So, the firms that have gone to the wall were so weak that even a 10 to 16% dip for a few months was enough to take them out.

Of course I have not deep dived into each of the failures. But UKWDG, Safestyle and some others were known for their low prices and heavy discounting, something that undoubtedly continued even when their salespeople could pick up sales as easily as falling out of bed. When such a culture is so ingrained in a firm it was very difficult to change and adapt to the post Covid bonanza.

However, Everest was known for high prices even though we in the industry recognised they were supplying merely mediocre products. But huge respect for a firm that managed to secure sales nonetheless, still trading off of the tremendous Ted Moult ads, who bless ‘im, popped his clogs almost 40 years ago.

Perhaps that was part of the problem, that the firm’s core customer-base were themselves shuffling off this mortal coil and not being replaced by younger customers. Either way, this time the private equity fund walked away, having apparently decided that no more cash was to be injected and neither did they want it even as a debt-free phoenix.

Everest had a reputation for inefficiency in its processes and it appears that nothing had changed since the firm went pop just four years ago. Spending what must have been a huge chunk on marketing and yet with a recent image that nobody I know can recall, its end was inevitable.

And whatever Anglian do with it, one of the most memorable retail brands ever, let alone for the ‘double glazing’ industry, will now slip into oblivion.