Personally I now rate the Fit Show as one of the three most informative events within building products. Given the number of exhibitors this year I am not surprised they're pushing for it to become an annual affair.
It is at events like these you realise just how long you have been in the industry. The amount of names and faces I recognised, along with conversations held, reminded me of what an enjoyable industry I have worked in for so many years.
Talking with various leaders, aluminium versus uPVC has really taken center stage. Having worked on both sides I was very keen to understand how manufacturers are differentiating themselves. Without given names away, content of conversations included:
- A number of recognised brands are having to diversify away from their traditional window and / or door offerings. Fenestration has been over subscribed for a number of years. Although a few big names have fallen over recent months manufacturers are having to partner other system houses in offering allied products - for example venturing into modular / roofing products
- Although sustainability is a subject manufacturers are always wary of addressing, speaking with two leaders they independently said that the home owner does not register the "green factor" when deciding which brand to plump for. As such, recycling (or buying in recycled raw materials) is not a growing factor.
- Speaking with a leader in uPCV he suggested that aluminium is gaining ground but is in danger of becoming commoditised. I witnessed a number of system houses providing broadened ranges of foiled products to combat this
- Clearly flush is all the rage this year. One manufacturer stated that the end user is pushing for this specification as it is has a cleaner finish
- Speaking with a manager I have know for sometime he feels aluminium's biggest challenge is educating their fabricator and installer network that aluminium is a smart alternative to uPVC. With the commercial market secured, higher end home owners are open to this as an alternative but their is still a reluctance to push the product. Home owners are already aware of the material for sliding door applications so why not windows / doors?
- They are also aware of energy ratings / U values. In truth manufacturers have largely driven the specification of any product within point-three points of maximum return and so manufacturers are now looking to attract and diversify in other areas
- I stumbled upon Secure by Design and had a very enjoyable conversation with one of their officers. She highlighted that many of the smaller manufacturers are unaware SBD is low cost to enter (~£2k per year). Home owners are acutely aware of kitemarks as was and are now recognising SBD as a brand to be associated with. She went on to say that social housing providers are now seeing the benefits of specifying SBD certified products by way of longevity and reduced defects.
- I love the photo attached to this article. Last year I recruited Wolfgang into Hormann as their new MD. Walking up to the stand I noticed he was in conversation with George Clarke and couldn't resist a snap. Interestingly, when discussing Brexit Wolfgang highlighted it is not so much availability of materials coming across that worries him. More so, he is witnessing a decline in quality candidates willing to move given the uncertainty. Obviously needs a seasoned headhunter!