If window and door retail businesses were hoping for some much-needed time off in 2021, the latest report from Right Move will make for uncomfortable reading.
According to the estate agency, it has already enjoyed the strongest spring housing market for a decade, with demand up 34% on the same period last year. Activity on the Right Move website, which is representative of 95% of the UK property market, is also very high – in February it recorded an average of seven million hits every day, an annual increase of 40%.
And with approximately two thirds of property on estate agents’ books already sold subject to contract by the middle of March, Right Move says it is anticipating additional demand from April onwards thanks to new government guarantees on 5% mortgages and the three-month extension to the Stamp Duty holiday.
“The housing market was a key driver of sales in 2020,” says Jenny Garrett, Retail Operation Manager for our retail installation business, Starglaze. “We received double, even triple volumes of sales last year, and that carried through into 2021. Inititally, we thought things might get back to normal by the second half of the year, but looking ahead now, that now might not be the case!
“Ultimately, a booming housing market will translate to more business for us down the line,” continues Jenny “but if there’s a downside, it’s that we are still pushing hard to keep up with current levels of demand and like the rest of the industry, face an ongoing challenge of material supply. That’s an issue that will get worse, before it gets better.
“We’ve had to adapt how we work. We’ve brought in more resources to help us complete installations – in most cases, on time – and we’ve created longer periods between delivery and installation dates. This means that if there are delays in manufacture or product supply, we have more room to manoeuvre,” explains Jenny.
“Managing homeowner expectations is also important, most understand that the problem is industry wide, and are prepared to wait, but communication is vital.”
For us, feedback from Starglaze has provided a direct understanding of the issues currently facing retail companies. It has helped to ensure that it is better placed than many other fabricators to understand the challenges its trade customers are presented with on a daily basis, and to fine tune the service it provides to its installers as a result.
Our unique package of lead generation, marketing and customer support, includes EasyAdmin a dedicated CRM dashboard that allows users to manage leads, create professional quotes, place orders online and generate invoices and sales reports.
Customers are also provided with a consumer facing online quote engine for products, with members of our Approved Installer network gaining access to a branded sub-site, complete with dedicated post-code search, e-marketing tools and SEO support.
Approved Installers also benefit from a raft of extended product warranties as well as SecurePlus, a comprehensive homeowner security protection guarantee that will pay out up to £2,000 in the event of a break-in due to hardware product failure.
“Lead generation and SEO support are fantastic, it helps to give us a real competitive edge, and I know that EasyAdmin is also a really popular tool with all of Sternfenster’s customers,” says Jenny. “It vastly simplifies the daily running of the business. If you have two offices, multiple computers, perhaps a trade counter – all your systems are synchronised. Everyone can see the status of a lead, or if an order has come in and how far that has progressed. It introduces a level of efficiency that’s invaluable when demand is as high as it currently is.
“Sternfenster Plus is also hugely beneficial,” she continues. “At Starglaze, we’re obviously very close to our supplier, but this system provides a unique insight into Sternfenster for all its customers. The news feed includes general industry related topics but also keeps people up to date on in-house developments.
“Installers can download marketing and training materials from Sternfenster Plus, but they can also use it to check the status of orders and deliveries and even access a live production feed across the PVC and aluminium manufacturing facilities,” adds Jenny. “This means you can see, at the point of order, the production capacity of individual products. It all goes back to being able to better manage homeowner expectations and to give them a clear indication of when they are likely to get their new windows or doors.
“From our experience at Starglaze, in the current climate, that’s absolutely invaluable!”
While Sternfenster has taken the lead on the quality and depth of its service, the support it offers is enhanced by the fact it operates as a family run company. This brings a genuine desire to go ‘above and beyond’ for its customers, a willingness to act as a business consultancy to those that need additional help, or for advice on tax, financial matters, and even HR.
“At Starglaze, we know first-hand how beneficial it is to be part of Sternfenster, but it’s also true to say that we do not get preferential treatment,” concludes Jenny. “Through Starglaze, Sternfenster has a clear picture of how current market conditions are affecting installers and all its customers are in a position to benefit from that as a result.”
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