Stay flexible and adapt to change
Aluplast’s director of sales and marketing, Ian Cocken, says the industry should maximise opportunities in order to win sales.
The last four years were characterised by a constantly changing landscape, Aluplast’s director of sales and marketing, Ian Cocken, points out, and for many retailers, the ability to react quickly was the key to winning sales.
This is a slightly different stance than many suppliers took. In both the immediate aftermath of the pandemic lockdowns, and the period following the disastrous mini budget of September 2022, demand for high value products increased, which prompted many to shift their focus away from the usual popular product lines.
“We definitely saw that shift,” said Ian. “For many, it coincided with supply chain issues. So, when demand for colour increased, for example, fabricators found their usual supply of foiled product diminish.
“We talked to many people during this time because our supply of foiled profile to the UK was largely unaffected, so our fabricator customers continued to fulfil their orders without delay.”
Ian believes that combined with the fall in volume during 2023, the window and door industry saw a marked shift away from suppliers selected largely on price, to a situation where partnerships were forged.
“Even as some are predicting a return to a ‘race to the bottom’ scenario, as companies fight to hold on to market share, we are entering discussions with customers where supply is about so much more than price,” he said.
“For example, if window fabricators are determined to shape their reputation by an unwavering commitment to service, including on-time-in-full delivery promises, then they need to partner with a supplier that can help them achieve that.”
This, Ian says, moves the conversation away from a binary choice between high volume and high margin.
“It’s actually about flexibility, and about how agile a supplier can be in meeting demands,” he explained. “Not about whether you are focused on volume products or niche.”
According to Ian, this is central to conversations Aluplast is having with new customers and existing customers.
“A healthy bottom line is about efficiency as much as it is about keeping cost ultra-low,” he continued. “Why win work on price, only to fail to deliver?”
Security of supply underpins Aluplast’s strength in the UK, demonstrated by a recent significant investment in its new extrusion and distribution facility in Poland.
Built at a cost of more than 50 million euros, the plant sits on a 15-hectare site. Fifty high-speed twin extrusion lines are currently being installed, alongside a mixing plant, R&D facilities and foiling lines.
This decision to invest in infrastructure was made before the pandemic by the family-run business, and not by investors, for the long-term health of the business and for the benefit of customers.
“We are also improving our facilities here in the UK,” said Ian. “Again, this isn’t to meet current demand, but future requirements, especially as we welcome new customers and extend our product ranges.”
Aluplast’s product ranges in the UK reflect this attitude to flexibility. Ideal 70 is its energy efficient fully sculptured 70mm window system, which achieves a WER of A+, while the 70mm Ideal 4000 has a classic but a contemporary SquareLine finish, and achieves U-values as low as 1.2W/m2K.
“When we launched our flush sash, we ensured it suites perfectly with both the Ideal 70 and Ideal 4000 systems,” Ian said. “Crucially, this allowed fabricators to offer both heritage and contemporary flush products with a single product, which minimises stock holding and reduces overheads.
“These are available in a choice of more than 40 different foils, including our next generation offer, Woodec and Aludec.
“Factor in our flush outward-opening door, which also suites with both Ideal 70 and Ideal 4000 systems and boasts excellent thermal, security and weathertightness performance levels, and you have broad market appeal without significant investment.
“If you want to remain competitive in a changing marketplace, it’s not only what you deliver, but if you can deliver.”