The forecast is improving

Russell Yates
Russell Yates

By Russell Yates, managing director, AluK.

There’s no escaping the fact that it’s been a difficult start to the year for many. Economic conditions are tough – we’re told that the UK was technically in a recession in January; but almost worse than that is the fact that weather conditions have been so tough as well.

The knock on effects of builders and installers not being able to get out on site because of the incessant rain are being felt all the way along the supply chain.

Sadly, we’re also now seeing signs of the usual race to the bottom on price – particularly on aluminium bi-folds – which seems to characterise any kind of downturn in the UK fenestration market in a way that just doesn’t seem to happen in mainland Europe.

With casualties already rising amongst retail and commercial facing businesses as margins are squeezed, it doesn’t take a huge amount of insight to recognise that this is a dangerous strategy.

Surviving and thriving in this market is not just about having deep enough pockets to literally ‘weather the storm’ though, it’s about having a long term sales and customer support strategy which is about so much more than just price.

I’m pleased to be able to report that AluK is in a really good position now to be able to help our customers navigate the market if it stays in the doldrums for a while, or if the gloom finally lifts and we see all that pent up demand being released.

Since my return, we’ve been looking at ways to deliver better value so that customers can keep their hard earned margins intact. That’s everything from new single, standard and bulk buying discounts which reduce up-front costs, to faster lead times on our Elements ‘made to order’ single colours to speed up orders and make it quicker to convert an order into cash.

We’ve also reviewed hardware and handle options on our biggest selling products such as the BSF70 HI to offer a wider range at different price points so that customers can tailor their offering to suit themselves.

And of course, we’ve just launched the Quik Clip clip-in bead system which saves fabricators and installers valuable time on every product they fit. It’s already available on the BSF70 HI and is also now an option on our brand new, class leading S140 lift and slide patio.

The S140 lift and slide patio is part of our ongoing mission to give customers the products they need to successfully target the higher end of the market where demand and margins are still more robust.

It has the slim sightlines and flush sash aesthetic which retail buyers love, coupled with impressively low U-Values. These are achieved using CEN sizes as well, rather than the slightly misleading extreme sizes used by some of our competitors in this market. This is a door which ticks every box for fabricators and installers looking to get a bigger slice of the premium market – it’s easy to manufacture and, thanks to the addition of Quik Clip system, incredibly quick to glaze.

I can assure all our customers that AluK is in this market for the long run. We obviously have strong financial backing as part of a global group, but we can also offer the kind of operational stability and reliable service that customers need to withstand whatever the future economic and weather conditions turn out to be.