Remaining refreshingly relevant

As Liverpool’s Custom Glass celebrates 30 years in business this year, owner and managing director Jeff Hooson tells Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell how the company has continued to maintain an efficient business and a relevant product offering.

Jeff Hooson, owner and managing director of Liverpool’s Custom Glass, is an experienced glass man, having followed his father into the glass trade (albeit initially reluctantly), and can boast 40 years in the industry. Furthermore, he understands that a simple philosophy should guarantee success.
“Efficiency in operation is a major focus for Custom Glass,” Jeff said. “Price is always being driven down, and if you can’t be efficient, then you will go backwards.”
As a result, Custom Glass has spent more than £1 million over a course of a year investing in new machinery, and there is more on the cards for the second half of 2017.
Recent purchases include two cutting tables from Hegla/Bystronic, which includes a new 20-rack loader, and doubles the laminating cutting table capacity.
Custom Glass has also replaced the washing machine on an existing Bystronic IGU line, and replaced another IGU line with a new high speed Bystronic line. This takes the company’s capacity up to four production lines and improves the flexibility when it comes to the type of spacer bar used in the units.
“You have to constantly reinvest in the business to keep your standards high,” Jeff explained. “We want to produce the best quality products in the marketplace.”
Furthermore, you have to refresh your product offering to ensure that you remain relevant, which is why Custom Glass has launched a new range of composite door glass.
“There is a gap in the market for something new when it comes to composite doors,” Jeff said. “I believe we are currently too reliant on the import market for the doors’ sealed units. For example, we’ve seen prices increase since Brexit, and some companies are reporting problems with supply, which is particularly worrying when existing stock runs dry. Custom Glass’s composite door units avoids both of those problems.”
Jeff also said the technology behind composite doors has matured in recent years, and that there are fewer differences between different doors. Retailers were therefore using finer details – such as the glazing, hardware and colour – as points of differentiation.
“We’ve got a new brochure that is fresh off the printing press that we can send out now,” Jeff said.
Custom Glass’s other focus for efficiency is managing its supply of glass, including the price.
From just before the credit crunch in 2007 up until very recently, many companies in the glazing industry questioned the UK’s flat glass pricing structure, suspicious that the market was not a level playing field. This prompted Custom Glass to join forces with Clayton Glass and Northern Express Glass to form the National Glass Group in October 2015.
“We were met with some resistance from the glass manufacturers initially,” Jeff said. “But it gives us far better purchasing power, and it gives us security of supply and cost for a 12-month period.
“We all trade separately, and we don’t attempt to fix prices among ourselves. Interestingly, since we formed the group, the market has righted itself over the last couple of years, with a far better balance between supply and demand.”
At the end of the day, Jeff understands that the IGU market is a highly contested one, and in order to compete successfully, Custom Glass needs to ensure it has a secure supply of glass, that it’s processes are efficient, and that it produces the highest quality products possible.
“We supply domestic and commercial projects with IGUs,” Jeff said. “Entering the general glass processing market would mean us taking our eye off the ball, and would be a step backwards, which is why we have diversified within the IGU sector instead.
“If it’s a sealed unit, we will supply it – wherever it is.”