Reminisce, but embrace change

Andrew Scott, CEO of Purplex Marketing and Insight Data, reflects on industry change.

Many of us industry stalwarts will remember the introduction of fully welded frames, internal beading, and espags replacing cockspur handles. It was the heyday of the industry, with the cut and thrust of fast-growing companies and characters straight from White Gold.

How times have changed. All but a handful of systems companies have vanished, and the number of PVCU fabricators has declined from over 4,000 companies in 2007 to around 1,000 today, yet margins are tighter than ever.

For installers, long-gone are the crazy call centres, pumped-up sales meetings, and layers of management. Today, business owners are often the surveyor, installation manager and sales manager.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Homeowners are still replacing windows and doors, improving their homes and adding extensions. Order values are generally improving as customers upgrade to better products.

Standards are improving across the industry too; driven by regulation, customer awareness and a desire by many in the industry to become more professional. As a result, companies are becoming more efficient, with diversification and greater economies of scale contributing to growth.

It’s no surprise many of the characters in the industry have gone; some have retired while others have pursued other interests (and sadly a few have passed on).

As we enter a new decade, the glazing industry is entering a new phase, casting off its old skin and re-inventing itself.

Leaders today are learning from world-class manufacturers, the automotive industry, top retail companies such as John Lewis, and disruptive companies such as Amazon.

Organisational excellence has become as important as the products we sell. Sustainability is on the agenda of many companies as we face environmental challenges. To attract and retain talented people companies need to become employee-centric. Leaders can no longer rely on ‘gut feel’ alone; business strategy and customer experience are the catalysts of growth.

How industry leaders come together, collaborate and share knowledge is changing too. The first Glazing Summit, held in 2018, demonstrated the industry’s desire to raise standards and connect like-minded professionals.

The 2019 Glazing Summit took this to a new level, with more than 300 industry’s leaders, visionaries and future leaders coming together for a world-class event with speakers from across Europe.

Feedback from the last Glazing Summit has shown that the next generation of industry leaders want to collaborate, learn from each other, improve the industry, and tackle the jugular issues.

As I talked to those attending the Glazing Summit I couldn’t help but be excited for the future of our industry. The government’s zero-carbon agenda alone will create significant opportunity for the glass and glazing industry, with officials claiming the net zero emissions target by 2050 will require £1 trillion of investment.

Our industry will continue to adapt and evolve. I suspect fabricators will become larger and even more efficient, while installers will consolidate through mergers and acquisitions. With so many business owners at retirement age with no succession plan in place, it is inevitable that many of them will be absorbed into other organisations.

This October, the Glazing Summit will take another step forward in supporting the industry, with climate change and technology firmly on the agenda. The Glazing Summit Leaders’ Dinner will now host a new industry awards focused on business excellence, and a new networking evening in May will provide a great platform for quality installers, fabricators and suppliers to connect with like-minded professionals.

I still reminisce about the good old days, and remember them fondly, but the world has moved on, and so has the glass and glazing industry.

With a new decade upon us, it is time to embrace business change, work together to build a better industry and capitalise on the many opportunities that will present themselves.