Putting people first

Glass Times’ feature editor, Rebecca Clegg, visited Morley Glass’s Ian Short to find out what has been the company’s driving force over the last 20 years.

In 1998, Ian Short set up as a sealed unit manufacturer with his small team of three in a 500ft2 factory in Morley in Leeds. While the business grew steadily, producing 5,000 sealed units per week at its height, margins were low and Ian knew that diversification was the key if he wanted to build a sustainable business.

After looking at several options, in 2004 Ian decided that integrated blinds were the way forward as the initial outlay was low and, most importantly, Ian could see a huge untapped market for the product. Although Italian manufacturer Pellini had already been selling its ScreenLine integrated blinds into the UK for 10 years through 28 distributors, awareness with consumers was virtually zero, with any that did get sold going into commercial contracts.

Ian knew that marketing direct to the end user was beyond his budget and so began to market to contractors and installers through adverts in self-build magazines. While most other IGU manufacturers had a fear of integrated blinds as they required a specialist skill set, and they simply didn’t have the sales to allow their staff to develop these skills, Ian took the bull by the horns, made himself a specialist in the ScreenLine product and the sales began to pour in. Along with the technical skill needed to produce the integrated blinds, other companies had chosen not to promote them due to the six-week lead-time.

Ian steadily increased market awareness and sales and his relationship with Pellini strengthened until he was in a position to negotiate shorter lead times. Following this, sales increased further and eventually Pellini moved production of the C System to Czech Republic, allowing Ian to offer a five-day lead time on that particular blind system.

This, Ian said, was the change that was a defining moment for the company.

“Today, in our 20th anniversary year, Morley Glass produces around 4,000 blinds per week from our 53,000ft2 base and is Pellini’s largest customer,” Ian said. “The production hall boasts two Best Makina fully automatic 58m-long assembly lines, which are capable of producing 3m x 2.5m sealed units. So impressive is the production facility and training offered to our customers, that Pellini sends other customers from all around Europe to see best-practice in action here at Morley Glass.”

The passion and pride that Ian Short has in the business is plain to see and is clearly what drives him.

Morley Glass now has a huge 80% market share in the UK and has gone from spending 51,000 euros with Pellini in 2004 to 6.6 million euros in 2017. The company not only invests in the latest technology for its factory – the most recent of which is the addition of a live barcode system to track the product at every stage of production – but its investment into marketing and training is huge.

“The fear factor was the biggest barrier to many companies offering integrated blinds and so we knew that to succeed, we had to take that away,” Ian said. “Every one of our products, even the simplest blind, contains step-by-step instructions that can be seen through the packaging before opening.

“We hold training days and have created a series of YouTube how-to videos which have been greatly received by our customers. We’re the only company in the UK where ScreenLine is our primary product and that has allowed us to focus completely on the development of all of the systems needed to best get the product to market.

“We invest heavily in our people as customer service is at the heart of all we do, and if we look after them, they look after us.

“Several years ago there was a haulage strike in Italy which meant that our pre-Christmas orders weren’t going to make it to us. Two of our staff drove through the weekend right the way down into Italy and brought them back. Our customers had their blinds in time for Christmas while the rest of the UK had to wait until the third week in January for theirs.”

It seems that this is the difference with Morley Glass: while the company is the UK’s number one supplier of ScreenLine blinds, boasts an otif of 98% and sales growth of 27% in recent years, it is at its heart a family business and one that puts people first – whether that be its staff or its customers.