Reflections on 2023 and the year ahead

David Jennings
David Jennings

By David Jennings, CEO at UAP.

Rising inflation coupled with home improvement spikes during Covid have affected retail demand making trading conditions challenging. But our industry is a broad church.

Although there are issues in some parts, there are opportunities for growth as well as upswings such as ecommerce, which remained strong throughout 2023.

In a challenging economic climate, we continued to diversify the UAP group last year to de-risk any one core market. This strategy enabled us to grow our overall business by more than 50%. Strategic acquisitions supercharged our expansion with Maher London and Security Hardware joining the UAP family.

Our diversification also saw us invest in a new business, offering us two new income streams in 2024. Armadillo Metal Coatings is developing a range of anti-bacterial hardware and will incorporate a specialist chemicals division. The launch of Fire Door Maintenance (FDM) adds another string to our bow offering fire door inspection and maintenance services as well as best-in-class training for the industry.

To improve efficiency and connectivity, we moved from a multiple warehouse operation to a new headquarters in Bury. This 120,000ft2 building brings all our departments under one roof, helping us to increase capacity while streamlining our processes. It will also become home to FDM’s new training facility.

The last few years have underlined the importance of a robust supply chain. That’s why we have increased our supply chain team in China and India, and further strengthened our relationships with all suppliers. The massive stock holding capability at our new site enables us to store extra stock in the UK too.

Putting my neck on the line, my predictions are largely positive for 2024. I think the Government will introduce core policies to help stimulate the economy and curry favour with the electorate. These will help build short and midterm confidence in the markets.

Inflation should stabilise and currency will stay around the midpoint rate. Shipping and metal costs will remain stable, so I don’t see any need for significant price rises this year.

I think the UK retail window market will increase slightly. As buyers’ confidence grows, so should the demand for new build, aiding its recovery. Across the public sector, I believe there will be a renewed focus on capital projects, helping to boost the fire door market.

At UAP, we will continue to seek new markets for our products while de-risking and building our teams across every department. Innovation will run through the heart of our activities ensuring our products meet market needs.

The soft launch of the Ionic electronic lock resulted in a wish list of extra features which have now been developed thanks to our intuitive haptic technology. In 2024, we will also reveal our Ionic replacement handle.

If our industry was football’s Premier League, we want to make it to the top and secure a place in the UEFA Champions League. As we start the new year, this ambition will be front of mind as we keep scaling up and strengthening our business.