Why premium is no longer niche

Nick Dutton, CEO of Brisant Secure, says the overall home improvement market is flat or falling but the premium sector is growing fast; it’s becoming a substantial part of the market.

Are your sales stagnating or falling? Have you absorbed supplier price increases you can’t pass on to customers just to stay busy? Or are you sweating to keep up with demand, as customers focus on performance and looks rather than price? The home improvements market is undergoing a fundamental shift into a growing premium sector and a ‘mass’ market, and it’s affecting us all.

The premium market is no longer a small niche; just look around to see who’s doing well, and the standard of what they’re offering: orangeries, flush sashes, foiled finishes in a multitude of colours, Passivhaus energy efficiency standards, authentic detailing – and with prices to match.

The top end of the window and door market is very different to the white or mahogany options offered 10 or 20 years ago. This shift is affecting components too. Demand for premium security from hardware has only emerged in the last couple of years, but it’s a trend that’s growing quickly. The industry had assumed its doors were secure but they weren’t. Cheap £3 cylinders said ‘snap secure’ and let burglars in in under nine seconds.

When we launched Ultion, we designed it for real-life security, and the price reflected the quality of the product. It was a risk, but it’s paid off. With Sold Secure Diamond, TS007 3-Star and Secured by Design, it’s the most secure lock on the market. Just two years on and many large and medium sized door manufacturers offer Ultion as standard. And numerous installers are binning the cylinders that come with their doors and replacing them with Ultion.

We’re aiming to do the same in security and durability with Lock Lock, our TS007 2-Star handle. Officially launched in August, it has a spindle lock that protects against cylinder picking, bumping, drilling and snapping when engaged. And it’s survived more than 3,000 hours so far in independent corrosion testing for EN 1906:2012, when only 240 hours are required to pass.

It’s a premium handle, but like Ultion, it makes little difference to the overall cost of a composite door – but improves its performance significantly. If a homeowner’s paying £1,500 for a high-end composite door, they expect it to be secure, look good and perform well for years to come. And more homeowners are choosing high-end products like composite doors.

Home improvement markets are changing rapidly because the homeowner market has changed and evolved over the last 15 years. The population is ageing and growing quickly, and there aren’t enough homes being built and demand exceeds supply. Prices and the value of homes has been rising, but this wealth isn’t split equally: while over 65s are becoming richer, under 45s are just about managing.

Over a million would-be first-time buyers have dropped off the housing ladder, others can’t get on to it without the bank of mum and dad, and this polarity is reflected in homeowners’ buying habits: the market is splitting into The Haves and The Have Nots.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 7.4 million private homes are owned outright with a combined value of £1.76 trillion. The Haves can buy what they want – price is secondary, and they’re more or less immune to what’s happening in the wider economy. Now, more than ever – regardless of Brexit and an uncertain economy – it matters more than ever where you sell, who you sell to, and what you sell.