Are the brakes being applied?

By Neil Cooper-Smith, senior analyst, Business Pilot.

The figures for April support what most people are experiencing: volume is down. But they also give an indication of what is to come, which isn’t negative – if you are prepared.

At a headline level, average sales are down 10.1% in April, when compared to March 2024, to 55.8, and average leads are down 2.1% to 115.9.

This fall in volume affects those businesses that are geared predominantly to service that part of the market, and the collapse of Everest is a chilling reminder that fluctuations in demand can have a large knock-on effect on businesses up and down the supply chain.

The window industry is, by its very nature, reactive, and it is easy to judge the state of the market by a rolling three-month average. So, it is worth remembering that sales are actually up 23.7% when compared to the same time last year, and leads are up by 20.7%, which proves that we started from a stronger starting point in 2024 than in 2023.

This is also supported by other metrics that we pull from the Barometer data. For example, if you take the average order value into account (up 2.1% to £3,513 when compared to March 2024) and the conversion rate (up marginally to 41.7% in the same period) and then the outlook for the summer doesn’t seem quite so bleak.

These figures suggest that the homeowners who are spending are those looking for higher value products, and are researching the market with the intention of buying.

The widespread assumption is that, thanks to the current cost-of-living crisis, households don’t have the available budget to invest in home improvements. If this were the case, I would expect to see average leads and average sales down much further. As they stand, they are higher than a year ago, and people are researching the market with the intention of buying.

What I do see is hesitation. Confidence among homeowners is low, which I put down to the high cost of borrowing. Inflation is certainly approaching the government’s target figure of 2%, but the Bank of England has been very vocal about waiting until the autumn (according to the latest reports) before lowering the interest rate.

This is reflected in the sluggish housing market. Why commit to a mortgage today, at historically high rates, when it could be much cheaper in six months’ time?

We are not in recession, but it does feel as though the brakes are being applied. And let’s not ignore the elephant in the room: what will happen after the next election?

Maybe we should be looking at beyond the general election, and preparing our businesses for a possible surge in demand when confidence returns?

Using Business Pilot efficiently can help you track each individual lead and monitor sales trends. This will allow you to position your business so it can capitalise on that increased demand when it does arrive.