Not one to follow the crowd

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell visited Origin’s new headquarters in High Wycombe to discover how success in showrooms is translating to tangible benefits in the office.

Origin manufactures lifestyle products, and is part of a growing breed of fenestration companies that shamelessly reaches out to the end user with its branding and marketing.

The company is still a family business, and the marketing department – headed by director Ben Brocklesby – is a key driver in Origin’s success, spearheading the company’s clear branding, and developing the partnerships it has with its retail companies across the country.

Branding, of course, is not limited to what you put out into the marketplace. It is also a sense of identity, which is why Origin has invested in a new 20,000ft2 head office in High Wycombe.

The investment doesn’t stop at the bricks and mortar. Glass Times was given an exclusive tour of the new premises just days before the staff were due to be shipped across from the site the company has occupied since it was formed in 2002.

The upstairs office layout has been designed by a specialist company that has created ergonomic work spaces that take into account employees’ health and comfort: the best office chairs; breakout rooms that resemble comfortable living rooms; clutter-free board rooms; quiet areas; and hot desks for peripatetic directors.

In fact, the floor looks more like something out of Silicon Valley than the window and door industry.

Downstairs is home to a massive showroom (which was under construction) and a new manufacturing unit that will house the new sliding door production line.

“This is about company values,” Ben said. “It was the result of a conversation that senior management had with staff about how they felt about the company.

“It was a big investment, but we went into this with our eyes wide open – this office is the tangible result of the company’s recent growth and success.”

Ben explained that Origin has seen 30%-40% year-on-year growth, which is being generated across the board.

“The partnership model that we’ve developed is responsible for much of that growth,” Ben said. “The companies that we deal with are getting the lifestyle they want. We’ve always said that Origin is only as successful as our partners, therefore, this new office demonstrates that investing time and money in them pays dividends.”

Ben explained that the relationship was a two-way street, and the Origin’s customers have as much to offer them in return.

“We have regular round table sessions, primarily to ensure that we don’t make products in isolation,” Ben said. “We get design input from the people who have been in the industry for – in some cases – decades.”

The round tables also give a chance for all parties to discuss other issues.

“The door and window industry is full of fear and rumour,” Ben said. “For example, after Brexit everyone thought we were going to raise our prices. Fortunately, we were able to nip that one in the bud, and it gave our partners confidence to invest in their infrastructure.”

Ben was referring to the power of the showroom. A recent ‘data mining’ exercise underscored many assumptions held by Origin, especially that a well-equipped showroom helps to substantiate the price and value of Origin’s products.

“And, of course, we are enjoying the aluminium boom,” Ben said, explaining that the industry is benefiting from high stamp duty.

Ben pointed out that stamp duty increases to 10% on properties bought for more than £925K, and this has boosted the demand for high-end fenestration products, as discussed by Palmer Market Research and others.

“The government has played into the fenestration industry’s hands,” he said.

Ben’s reasoning is that homeowners would much rather buy a lower value property (below the stamp duty threshold) than buying a property that commands a higher stamp duty and giving that money to the government.

“The money that they save could go into improving that home – giving them the home they want and bringing it up to the value that they had budgeted for,” he said.

This insight into the window and door market reinforced the unique position Origin has in the industry, which is often at odds with similar businesses.

Take the office move for example – Glass Times has seen its fair share of company’s head offices, and there is nothing like Origin’s new home in High Wycombe – which suggests that Origin will always be able to offer something different.