Stronger together

In January’s issue Glass Times featured several stories looking at confidence levels among installers and homeowners in the face of political and economic uncertainty in 2018. Ultraframe’s marketing director Alex Hewitt and home improvement firm BellaVista’s managing director Mike Parry discuss their feelings towards trading in 2018.

“It was really interesting to read the story about consumer spending – with four out of five homeowners more likely to renovate their current home rather than move,” Ultraframe’s marketing director Alex Hewitt said. “Our own data tells the same story.

“In 2017 we saw a significant rise in leads which we attribute to our partnership with Which? Trusted Traders. The quality of leads coming via the partnership is strong; typically these are homeowners who are in a buying mind-set looking for the best available extension solution matched by excellent products and customer service.

“To put this in context, if you wanted to extend your home several years ago, you either had a conservatory or a conventional, brick built structure completed by a builder. Today the landscape in the home extension market couldn’t be more different. Today’s home improvers want light-filled spaces with lots of glazing both in the roof space and the windows, which we’ve seen with the explosion of bifold doors and large sliders.

“Window and conservatory installers are perfectly placed to capitalise on this trend; combining modern conservatory products with large spans of doors and glazing is the ideal solution for the aspirational glazed extension in terms of both design and thermal performance.

“We won’t feel the real impact of Brexit for many months, even years, but we are confident that our range of extension solutions give Ultraframe retailers the very best opportunity to weather any economic storm. That said, our strategy at Ultraframe has always focused on quality lead generation. It’s just one of the reasons our Ultra Installer scheme is so successful. Coupled with the Which? Trusted Traders influence, this will keep our lead generation activity strong in 2018. My prediction is that the market will see a drop off in what I would describe as the ‘casual’ lead – homeowners that are either looking for the cheapest possible conservatory, a quick fix to an immediate space issue, or those homeowners that are just shopping around.”

Mike Parry, who has owned BellaVista for nine years, said the last two years have been interesting.

“The home improvement market, or certainly the extension market, is changing,” he said. “Yes, Brexit brings another layer of economic uncertainty, but we are well prepared for that. It isn’t like we didn’t know this was coming.

“Undoubtedly, we will see consumers tightening their belts. We’ve already seen cautious consumer spending, but the point made in the data about people improving, not moving, is reflected in our business. We’ve just appointed a new sales manager which is a consequence of our business performance in the last six months of 2017.

“For me, I feel that we might see the overall volume of leads going down but homeowners looking to improve their home have thought through their decision, saved for the expenditure, and are seeking the best solution that will give them the most usable, flexible space.

“The point that Alex made about homeowners shifting towards window installation businesses for home extensions is happening. The feedback we receive from customers is certainly as you’d expect; they like the assurance and guarantees that come with using a firm like BellaVista. The breadth of product choice also plays a key part in the decision making process, even being able to show the customer a CAD drawing of their extension makes a difference.

“2018 will be a changing year; it remains to be seen to what extent, but we’re optimistic that our investment in product range and customer service will stand us in good stead.”