Nothing left to chance
By Neil Cooper-Smith, senior analyst, Business Pilot.
2023 was, most would agree, a tough year for trading, especially as we emerged from a significant boom following Covid, and straight into inflationary pressures brought about predominantly by global forces outside of our control.
It will be four years ago in March when much of the world closed down to limit the spread of the coronavirus, so I think we can discount any residual ripple effect from that period on our market going forward.
But global forces still have a disruptive effect on our economy. The wars in the Middle East and Ukraine continue to feed through to high prices on our shores, and there appears to be no end in sight in either conflict.
The latest development, which sees Yemen-based Houthi forces attack freighters in the Red Sea with a link to Israel, has already driven up the price of crude oil after Iran rejected calls to end support for the attacks.
This is on top of an expected increase in the price of goods after some cargo ships were diverted round the tip of Africa, rather than pass through the Suez Canal and face the extra dangers.
These are unwelcome additional pressures on household finances, especially after the energy price cap increased by 5% to take into account a rise in global gas market prices at the start of the year.
At home, house prices remain sluggish – as they did throughout 2023 – with the Nationwide reporting that they are about 1.8% lower than they were at the start of 2023.
This could have a positive impact on the window, door and glass industry, as homeowners unwilling to put their homes on the market choose to upgrade their existing properties instead. The fly in the ointment is that the number of first-time buyers dropped to its lowest level in a decade, according to the Yorkshire Building Society.
This is potentially storing up problems for the future because with less new money entering the property market, there is less money available for refurbishment projects.
The shot in the arm in 2024 will probably come from the likely General Election. March 6 has been set for the last Budget before the country goes to the polls, and many experts believe that tax cuts will be announced in a bid to win over voters.
How this will translate into better personal finances over the coming year is very difficult to predict, but if it does mean consumers ‘feel’ richer, then it could have a significant impact on the sales of windows and doors.
If homeowners feel confident enough to take out loans for home improvement, then we should some of that activity return to the market this year.
In fact, it will build on the slow shift we saw towards improved confidence towards the end of 2023. It’s difficult to read too much into December’s data, because trading activity always drops away, but when compared with the same period as 2022, we can see that the average number of sales was up by almost 50% – 36.3 in December 2023, compared to 24.3 in December 2022.
Similarly, despite a year characterised by fewer leads overall, companies recorded 62.6 average leads in December 2023, compared to 54.6 in December 2022. This is a 14.7% increase.
And there are significant marketing opportunities going into 2024. For example, energy efficiency and sustainability will continue to be big drivers, especially as conversations around climate change continue at a headline level.
But with Business Pilot, you don’t need to be looking ahead 12 months at a time. With our constantly developing CRM system, you have all the data right there at your fingertips, so you know which products are performing, and which aren’t. You can also keep track of quotes and orders so that every lead that comes into your business is followed up, so nothing is left to chance.