The bigger picture

Polyframe acquired the Customade Group in February, which has created the UK’s largest fabricator with revenues of more than £100 million. Customade Group’s sales and marketing director Gareth Thomas tells Glass Times what we can expect the group to deliver.

I like to think that we’ve just become the biggest name that people may never have heard of, until now. The recently enhanced Customade Group is now the biggest fabricator in the UK, with multiple specialities and a vast, expanded product portfolio that spans across PVCU and aluminium windows and doors, composite doors, aluminium glazed roof products, sealed glass units, and specialist glazing.

Our aim is to help installers to enhance and grow their businesses and to help them benefit from sourcing all their products from one established supplier. By bringing together industry-leading products and brands into one group, we can now cater for the entire fenestration industry and we have a solution for almost anything our customers may require.

The combined product portfolio of the new group is enormous, with a quality and versatility that’s arguably unmatched by any other fabricator in the industry. The Customade Group is a ‘family’ of specialist companies, each of which has many decades of experience in serving their own individual sector. Each is dedicated to providing outstanding products and exceptional customer service, and each complements the group as a whole to make us a very strong player within the market.

The group now operates nationwide and employs 900 people in multiple manufacturing sites across the UK, which enables it to serve a much broader customer base across a wider geographical reach.

The group headquarters is based at Stonehouse in Gloucestershire and former Customade managing director John Lightowlers is group managing director.

The Customade Group’s products and brands and now includes Polyframe (PVCU), Real Aluminium (aluminium), Atlas Glazed Roof Solutions (glazed roofs), Virtuoso (composite and paneled doors), Hourglass Seal (sealed glass units), and Fineline Aluminium (specialist glazing).

Polyframe is the UK’s largest fabricator of trade windows, doors and conservatories, manufacturing more than 10,000 frames a week from four sites. It’s well known within the PVCU sector and fabricates a number of profiles to satisfy different customer preferences.

The group now supplies five PVCU systems from Veka, Halo, Eurocell, Rehau and Duraflex. This is a unique offer within the industry, which gives customers a far greater choice of profiles to suit them. It also gives them the flexibility to buy multiple PVCU systems – one for the higher end of the market and a more competitively priced system for the trade, for instance.

Customade fabricates both PVCU and aluminium products, but aluminium has been the biggest growth area for the business with aluminium output increasing by 50% in the last year. Our ‘Real Aluminium’ launch was a huge advance for Customade (and our customers too) bringing an impressive range of aluminium windows, bifolding doors, sliding doors, french doors, residential doors, composite doors and lantern roofs within a lead time of just two weeks.

Atlas Glazed Roof Solutions manufactures a contemporary range of aluminium products which includes orangeries, roof lanterns, conservatories, verandas, lean-tos, flat rooflights and the Skyroom. We believe Atlas was the fastest growing conservatory and orangery roof system in the UK in 2016 and the business is well on course for an even better year this year.

This enlarged, full-service group gives us a unique strength within the market and brings a host of benefits to fabricators, installers and retailers. By joining forces as the Customade Group we have a collective might to grow rapidly within the industry, and offer customers a complete, sustainable package that caters for all their fenestration needs. Through one group, they can all access any fenestration product they could need for a project, and align themselves with some superb brands.

I’m genuinely excited about all the opportunities that we can bring to the industry as the Customade Group. A fundamental part of our strategy is about delivering great customer service and providing customers with the tools to help them to grow. We have collective skills, knowledge and experience to shape the future of the group and to become the supplier that customers go to and depend on.

The size of the new group brings many benefits. Those installers and fabricators who work with multiple suppliers will know – sometimes from bitter experience – that it can have a huge effect on delivery schedules, service levels and even cash flow. They will immediately benefit from the greater efficiencies and assurances that come from working with one trusted supplier, rather than dozens of them.

One single route to one complete range of specialist products shortens the supply chain and helps customers to significantly increase their productivity. One supplier, one relationship and an optimised product range saves time ‘shopping around’ for products. And by dealing with a major, established group, they are less vulnerable to other external factors too, which gives them greater security and confidence.

We’re able to satisfy any fenestration requirement and bring the biggest selection of market-leading products to customers. There is no other group in the UK that can supply the sheer number of aluminium and PVCU products that we can, and that’s important because it gives our customers a huge advantage against their competitors.

On the PVCU side, we are a high-volume manufacturer and we offer the widest range of PVCU products. Growing consumer demand for aluminium and the higher profit margins it brings, has however encouraged many PVCU installers to explore the potential of aluminium. ‘Real Aluminium’ was created with these installers in mind and it provides an amazing range of aluminium windows, doors and roof products, full sales and marketing support and as much insider knowledge as they need to enter into a fresh market.   

Demand for glazed roofing products has soared and last year Atlas doubled production of its glazed roofs and expanded production space by 40%. This increased capacity has enabled the business to take on many new installers and help them to take advantage of this consumer movement towards glazed roofs.

Composite doors are another growth area, and the group can now supply high quality composite doors in both aluminium or PVCU outer frames through our composite door manufacturer, Virtuoso.

As demand increases, it’s important to maintain a consistent supply and build in capacity to grow. The group will be investing heavily and increasing production rates to support future growth.

Our team of people brings a wealth of industry experience and they are passionate about delivering a great customer experience. We are committed to building relationships with customers and providing them with all the support they need to help them sell an unbeatable range of products.

The marketing package that we developed for the Atlas and Real Aluminium brands achieved fantastic results, and we’ll be doing the same with the Polyframe and Virtuoso brands.  

Customer relationships are fundamental and we’re keen to emphasise that customers will continue to work with their dedicated sales manager. The advantage they now have is they only need to manage one relationship to access all of those products from a single source.

The group has enormous potential and the resources to make a really positive contribution to customers. We intend to forge even stronger relationships with them by delivering exceptional service and an extensive range of products.

There’s never been a better time to look at the bigger picture.