More for less

The conservatory sector may have declined in volume but its delivering high margin returns nonetheless, according to Emplas’s John Leary.

It’s absolutely clear that the conservatory sector has made a gargantuan leap forward in the last four years, as a new generation of products have come of age.

It’s the product of a lot of soul searching post 2012 – a true annus horribilis for the conservatory sector when the market all but imploded.

Since then it has successfully ‘re-branded’. Traditional conservatories, other than in period properties, have more or less been consigned to history, their place taken by a new generation of glazed extensions.

Orangeries and hybrid solutions now make up the vast majority of sales in our own retail business, T&K Home Improvements. Consumer aspiration has shifted and the conservatory sector has responded.

According to Palmer, this is reflected in a jump in the total installed value of the conservatory market of 9% to £1.05 billion – the highest level since 2009, while average installed prices also rose by 12%.

This shift has also been reflected in the development of our own offer retail offer. T&K is supplying more and more hybrid platforms. This is also something which has in turn influenced the development of our trade offer.

We supply the leading systems from Ultraframe, including the Livinroof. In our experience the combination of a more solid feeling structure has significant end-user appeal meeting consumer demand for flexible living space.

This also drove our decision to bring the tiled UltraRoof380 onboard. As a lightweight and high performance and modular solid roof system it’s easy to install, providing a lower cost but rapid fit alternative to traditional roofing systems or as a replacement system.

We see this as an important. First-time conservatory installations declined 4% at the last count, which meant replacements accounted for 29% of all installations, with forecasts suggesting replacement roofs will form an increasingly important part within the sector through to 2020 and beyond.

As a solid roof the Ultraroof380 is tangibly different from older installations but most importantly meets end-user demand for a more substantial construct. This means that it can be pitched directly against a traditional home extension but at a far more accessible price point.

An estimate: a single storey extension outside of London (where it’s significantly higher) is anywhere between £1,200 and £1,500 per square metre. So, for a 5m x 5m extension, the cost of the build alone is going to be around £30,000, and that’s before professional fees (architects etc) and VAT.

We can offer homeowners a far more accessible solution, and we’re seeing really strong buy-in in our own retail business – and within our wider customer base.

To support our customers in accessing these opportunities we’ve invested in the onward development of U-Design, the software platform from Ultraframe.

This moves the standard programme available from U-Design forward from CAD design and the conservatory roof element of the job to include frames, install costs and building works. This includes, for example, additional electrical or plumbing works, tiling or laminate floor fitting, sub soil removal, and laying of patio slabs.

It in turn offers increased visibility and transparency so the design can be tailored to the customer’s budget, but also allows our customers to promote add-on services. It’s also fully integrated with our quote creation and lead management systems.

This includes our Quotation Pack software which pulls-through detail from U-design to create detailed and professional quotes in a matter of minutes, including drawings, all relevant certification, accreditations, and product specifications. It forms almost a complete schedule of work including structural loadings.

Fundamentally, given the current state of the UK housing market, extending your home still makes considerable sense. House prices may have dropped in April by 3.1% but in the three months to it, and taken as a whole, they actually increased by 2.2%, which means property prices are still high, moving is expensive, and the step up the ladder still out of reach for many UK households.

If UK homeowners aren’t moving then extending their properties becomes the only option for growing families. Glazed extensions – hybrid-solutions, orangeries and solid roof options – consequently offer the perfect platform for higher margin sales opportunities, plus the pull-through of other products.