High demand followed by uncertainty

The industry will continue to see high levels of demand through to the end of the year but should brace itself for tougher trading conditions at the start of 2021, according to commentators.

Held at the end of July, panellists on a Covid-19 Emplas Roundtable, said that the boom seen in retail and new-build had far exceeded their expectations.

While there was an expectation that high levels of demand would continue through to the end of this year, members of the forum warned of tougher trading conditions at the start of 2021.

Ryan Johnson, managing director of Emplas, said: “What is clear is that everyone has seen exceptional demand over the summer and, with order books still very strong, there is an expectation that this will continue into through to the end of the year.

“It’s what happens after that that remains less certain.”

The roundtable event was attended by Clare O’Hara (managing director of Epwin Window Systems), Thom Emerson (sales and marketing director of Ideal Window Solutions), Mark Pearce (managing director of KJM Group), and representatives of industry media.

The Green Homes Grant was also discussed (which Thom Emerson compared to the Green Deal and another “missed opportunity”), as was the boom the industry had seen the easing of lockdown, with all those in attendance reporting a major uplift in demand.

This, however, has put pressure on the supply chain, with the two installers (KJM Group and Ideal Window Solutions) reporting extended lead times and order books.

Those higher up the supply chain (Emplas’s Ryan Johnson and Epwin Window Systems’ Clare O’Hara) said how they were adapting their businesses to meet this demand.

Ryan said he had hoped that the Green Homes Grant “in a way would have led to some form of cooling of the market”, while Clare added that Epwin Group had invested significantly in additional resourcing to guarantee supply increasing its daily extrusion capacity from 100 to 130 tonnes a day.

The uncertainty that Covid-19 created and the risk of future localised lockdowns was a shared concern. KJM Group’s Mark Pearce, highlighted the rise in cases in Europe, and the importance of keeping customers and employees safe.

This was something that Clare said the industry should be proud of.

“We have adapted to a difficult situation, safeguarding the welfare of our workforces, putting in safe working practices in our factories and out on site,” she said. “We’ve put in new risk assessments and work has carried on and that’s really important.

“And we’re coping as best we can with the rapid growth in demand that we have seen from a standstill start in May.”

Ryan concluded: “As an industry we’ve put ourselves in a position to take advantage of homeowner demand by coming back when we did, to recover and to give ourselves a fighting chance of a decent future.”