A look back at 2017

Stuga’s Steve Haines considers how is the PVCU window and door frame market progressed in 2017.

After talking to customers and some well-connected people, Stuga has come to the conclusion that the PVCU window industry is very likely to be around 10% to 15% down in money terms, and 15% to 20% down in volume terms by the end of 2017.

A significant slowdown but not a disaster, and following a very good year in 2016 it isn’t perhaps as bad as it seems.

Indications are that it may now be improving in many sectors. We have also noted other reports in the trade media showing the same kind of pattern. There are clearly sectors and individual companies within the industry that fly against these trends, and some of these will be taking market share from others in their sector.

One factor that appears clear is that much of the PVCU window and door industry is consolidating with large organisations forming out of takeovers and amalgamations. This is particularly so for fabrication, and 2017 sees the continuation of this trend in particular with regards to the Customade/Polyframe Group, and Roy Frost’s new group of GJB and Lister Trade Frames on a slightly smaller scale.

This moves away from the old idea of ‘super fabricators’ that clearly has not worked to date.

Glass and extrusion related industries have consolidated considerably over recent years and it was inevitable that PVCU window and door fabrication would follow. Keeping efficient local manufacture and distribution seems to work well for PVCU windows and doors. On the other hand, the creation of trade counters provides some bigger manufacturers a route to the more far flung areas of the market. It is going to interesting to see how this route to market might disrupt the local manufacturing centres model.

When investment is considered, one thought is to hold off buying equipment due to uncertainties but the other side of the coin suggests that PVCU fabrication is possibly into the survival of the fittest, meaning investing is vital for some that haven’t done enough or haven’t kept up with the times.

It is a strange situation when it can be seen that there is too much capacity in fabrication and yet more seems to be created by further purchases. In fact, quite a lot of investment that is happening or needed is to replace obsolescent or worn out equipment, which is slowly but surely dragging efficiency down for some fabricators that need to be able to fight to keep their market share.

Stuga manufactures sawing and machining centres, which were originally expected to have a life in the span of 10-15 years, but some are now much older, meaning Stuga is nursing some machines along for owners who, for whatever reason, haven’t changed them. These fabricators are not only missing out on the benefits of newer more accurate models with leading edge technology but there are inevitably more breakdowns on machines that are heading towards 20 years old.

It has been particularly noticeable in the last two to three years that successful Stuga fabricators are choosing top of the range machines where they have the volumes to justify them. The fabricators purchasing these new machines have clearly had the vison to reinvest and been planning considerable capital investment on an ongoing basis, which is why they are at the top of their game.
Stuga also has to constantly update customers regarding the latest technology so they are aware the company has been constantly improving machines with the latest leading edge technology ensuring the fabricator isn’t comparing old Stuga technology with a competitor’s latest technology. This is a constant task for Stuga staff and technicians.