How to up your game

Mark Hutchinson, managing director at Tradesmith, explains how the company has revitalised its business model to meet the changing demands of customers including colour trends, delivery expectations, frame materials and product choice.

Earlier this year, we celebrated our 25th anniversary as a window and door fabricator. A big milestone, and anyone in the industry will agree that a lot has changed since then – not least the change from timber and aluminium, to PVCU as the material of choice, and now the return to aluminium.

Predicting market trends and demand is one of our most important roles as a fabricator; knowing what to make and which brands, materials and colour choice to offer, determining what lead times customers need, and being at the forefront of change to stay competitive.

I think 2018 has been one of the most turbulent years in memory in terms of changing consumer expectations; quality products, excellent service, fast turnarounds and colour personalisation have to be part of your offer if you want to do more than just survive.

We have responded to this challenge by upping our game and positioning ourselves as the number one fabricator for colour in the south east across all our products. Homeowners are more demanding in their colour preferences now – for example, you can’t just stock anthracite grey anymore. Grey has been the big colour trend of 2018 and we’re getting demand for all variants, for both new build and refurb projects.

In most instances, we fabricate colour windows and doors in the same timeframe as standard white. We don’t differentiate, because our customers can’t. The end-user wants their product delivered in the same lead times whether it is white or not, because they can’t see any reason why they should wait longer. If you are ordering a jumper online, you wouldn’t expect to wait an extra two weeks to have it in red.

That’s why we’ve adjusted our delivery service to prioritise what installers need, so they don’t have to let their customers down. I like to think we’ve always been a bit sharper than our competitors when it comes to fast service, but we now offer three-day and ‘Amazon’ fast next-day delivery options, so we give installers choice. This might seem excessive, but we are all getting used to buying and receiving what we want in real time, and it’s time we caught up with other industries. It suits our customers, and it suits us because we can turn orders around in our factory faster, making room for new orders and more business. Everything now is on-demand. If we maintain these standards, we can boost business, improve efficiency and deliver an overall better service in the supply chain.

More and more fabricators are sourcing from multiple suppliers now and we are no exception. One of our biggest investments has been in Synseal Group’s hybrid WarmCore system which stands out for being easy to fabricate and install. With a PVCU core, it is straightforward for installers to fit but it has more rigidity than a PVCU bifold with its aluminium exterior.

WarmCore is changing developers’ and homeowners’ expectations of aluminium windows and doors by offering them style and thermal performance where before they had to choose. Most people notice the different look when it’s installed and most like it. So, we then get a call, and another order, and so on.

It’s remarkable because we haven’t had to do a lot of marketing for WarmCore – which now includes the inline sliding patio system, as well as a full window suite and Tradesmith’s Bluesky certified A-rated acoustic WarmCore window.

The growing demand for aluminium, combined with WarmCore’s standout benefits, have made it a great fit for us in the south east where there is a lot of new, modern development happening. Plus, the composite structure of the product has been crucial in enabling us to produce dual colour in fast lead times, which isn’t as easy with other aluminium systems.

The challenge for us now is in maintaining the high standards we’ve set ourselves, while continuing to be pioneers. We will always listen to our customers and do what we can to respond to their needs. If we hadn’t noticed the growing trend for colour from customers, we wouldn’t have been prepared for the boom, or been able to help them grow with the right product choice, colour, fast response and delivery flexibility we’ve all got used to in today’s fast-changing world.

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