The shape of retail in 2021

Window and door retail started 2021 as it left off in 2020: with extended orderbooks continuing end user demand, plus disruption to supply. With its own retail business, Starglaze, Sternfenster understands the challenges its trade customers face on a day-to-day basis. Jenny Garrett, retail operation manager at Starglaze, with 20 years in trade and retail behind her, reflects on the challenges installation businesses face at the start of this year, and where opportunities lie ahead.

We received double and even triple volume of sales that we would normally see last year and that hasn’t really slowed much at the start of this year.

We’ve had to adapt how we work, changing roles and responsibilities but we have still been able to maintain supply within our normal lead times.

That’s meant working closely with production, so they have as much visibility of what we have coming in as possible. We’ve also brought in additional resource to support us in completing installations in most cases, on time.

But it has been hard work and we have encountered many of the same challenges as Sternfenster’s other customers, with supply of some products delayed because we [Sternfenster] haven’t had them to manufacture, which has impacted on installations.

The majority of homeowners understand that there is a strain on the industry and are prepared to wait. Not that we have had a huge delay on standard lead time. Where we were waiting on a composite or a panel, most were glad to get the rest of the work completed.

When the lead times started to extend beyond normal the sales team were updated so they could set the customers’ expectations. Internal processes were changed so we only provided an installation date once the order had been placed instead of the original process where we provided an installation date prior to survey.

We also left a longer period between the delivery date and the installation date. We’ve been building in more flexibility if there are delays in manufacture or because product is delayed in getting to us to make.

We saw last year that lockdown contributed massively to sales. People were unable to spend their money on going out and holidays so many invested in home improvements. Furlough, home working, then and now, also meant that people were spending additional time at home and want to make improvements.

If you’re looking at the start of this year, while people are a little more weary and perhaps consumer confidence has fallen away a little, many of those same factors are still there: Covid, lockdown and limitations on how people can spend their money.

The stamp duty holiday is also, in our view, going to feed in new work, propping up movement in the housing market.

With the rollout of the vaccination programme we may see that change in the second half of the year with some kind of normality returning, as people will start to spend their money elsewhere again. But, in a way, I’d guess we’d all welcome that on a personal level at least.

2021 is going to be more of the same in terms of the big sellers. Our bread butter product is the Deceuninck standard white 2800 casement window. We focus a lot on colour but for a lot of homeowners it’s still what they want.

That said, colour, painted and foiled windows saw sustained growth last year and we’d expect that to continue.

On the PVCU window side we also saw sustained growth in flush casement sales and that’s definitely going to be important for us this year. They were up by around 15% in 2020 and we’re expecting that rate of growth to continue throughout 2021.

In addition, composite doors remain a big part of our product mix. And, possibly as a direct result of lockdown, we’ve also seen a significant increase in demand for solid roof conservatories. A lot of people are looking to add space to their homes and they’re seeing them as more accessible alternative to a traditional extension.

The other increasingly important area for us is aluminium. Bifolds have been there for a few years now but we’re also seeing increased demand for aluminium sliding patio doors, which is a newer trend, as well as aluminium windows. I think people are looking for that architectural style of product.

Watch the interview here: