High Demand to End of the Year But Tougher Start to 2021- Industry Roundtable

The industry will continue to see high levels of demand through to the end of the year but should brace itself for tougher trading conditions at the start of 2021, according to commentators. This was the general consensus by panellists on a COVID-19 Emplas Roundtable that was held at the end of last month. The panel agreed that the boom seen in retail and new build had far exceeded their expectations. While there was an expectation that high levels of demands would continue through to the end of this year, members of the forum warned of tougher trading conditions at the start of 2021.

Ryan Johnson, Managing Director at Emplas, said: “What is clear is that everyone has seen exceptional demand over the summer, and with order books still very strong, there is an expectation that this will continue through into the end of the year. It’s what happens after that, that remains less certain.”

Held on Thursday, July 30, Johnson was joined on the forum by Clare O’Hara, Managing Director at Epwin Window Systems; Thom Emerson, Sales and Marketing Director at Ideal Window Solutions; Mark Pearce, Managing director at the KJM Group, and representatives of industry media.

Topics of conversation include the Green Homes Grant, with Thom Emerson summing up the mood when he compared it to the Green Deal and another “missed opportunity”. This aside, topics of the debate included the boom the industry had seen since the easing of lockdown, with all those in attendance reporting a major uplift in demand. This, however, was highlighted as putting pressure on the supply chain, with the two installers ‘in the room’, KJM and Ideal Window Solutions, reporting extended lead times and order books. Those ‘higher up’ the supply chain, Emplas’ Ryan Johnson and Epwin Window System’s Clare O’Hara, highlighted to the forum how they were adapting their businesses to meet this demand.

Ryan said he had hoped that the Green Homes Grant ‘in a way would have led to some sort of cooling of the market’, while Clare added that the Epwin Group had invested significantly in additional resourcing to guarantee supply increasing its daily extrusion capacity from 100 to 130 tonnes a day. The uncertainty that COVID-19 created and the risk of future localised lockdowns was a shared concern. KJM Group’s Mark Pearce, referencing the rise in cases in Europe, spoke of the importance of keeping customers and employees safe going forward.

This was something that Clare said the industry should be proud of. Clare said “We have adapted to a difficult situation, safeguarding the welfare of our workforces, putting in safe working practices in our factories and out on site. We’ve put in new risk assessments and work has been carried on and that’s really important. And we’re coping as best we can with the rapid growth in demand that we have seen from a standstill start in May.”

Speaking at the roundtable, Ryan concluded: “As an industry, we’ve put ourselves in a position to take advantage of homeowner demand by coming back when we did, to recover and to give ourselves a fighting chance of a decent future.”

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