GGP regular columnist, Danny Williams of Pioneer Trading, discusses the current float glass shortage, Brexit tourettes and the increase in ‘white van men’ fitting windows.
Conspiracy theories abound about an apparent shortage of float glass, something that I genuinely have not experienced. Speculation is rife about shortages being created deliberately to drive prices up and, whilst there is much conjecture in the press, none of those quoted will put their names to their claims, for fear of reprisals from the big suppliers. The worry is, they say, that already short deliveries will be disrupted even further should they speak out.
Nothing has affected our meager operation although perhaps we are simply too small to be on the radar. And although the conspiracy theorists might be dribbling at the notion of shortages being artificially created in order to hike up prices, this is counter intuitive – simply because deliberately failing to meet clients’ expectations will lead to market reductions and loss of share in the longer run.
But is this really what the big processors feel? That any fuss they make will be greeted by Putinesque measures to shut down or cripple their businesses? What sort of industry are we in? Never mind worrying about being quoted in the press: if the core nature of your relationship with a key supplier is based upon fear, it’s the police you should be speaking to.
When the nation voted to leave the European Union there was an immense outcry from those that felt we would be better off remaining. Of course, that is understandable. Leaving this organisation would, one way or another, impact us for the rest of our lives and indeed, those of our children. But I recall feeling quite shocked at the emotional response of many otherwise rational and objective people, some of whose language verged on the neurotic.
And still that continues. The fact is, the vote from the British people was to leave the EU. And all the teeth gnashing and wailing does not change the fact that, within the system that we have adopted in this country, that was the outcome.
At least one survey has shown that if the vote was taken again, the result would marginally go the other way. I have no doubt that would be the case. But, quite simply, that would corrupt the core thread of our society: the principle of democracy.
Despite this we continue to face the daily onslaught of politicians who believe it would be acceptable to have another vote, in the way that kids in a playground might say ‘best of…’ until the outcome rolled their way. But of those remainer Members of Parliament that understand the futility of such a call, I am convinced that many are doing their best to undermine any plans for a smooth transition. And that is something I believe is tantamount to treason.
Those that know me understand how easy it is to trigger my well-diagnosed Brexit Tourettes. But many others and I are incensed at the inability of Teresa May and her band at their ineptitude in negotiating the details of our country’s emergence from the club. It is costing me – and all of you out there – money, right now!
The key currency of our industry is confidence; not the amount of money that people have at their disposal, but the sense of wellbeing – or otherwise – that gives them the confidence to part with their cash, to treat themselves to relatively high ticket items, such as home improvements. And with the constant wavering and, let’s face it, crisis of confidence with the Houses of Parliament generally, I am amazed at how resilient the market is, though how much better it could be will never be known.
The truth is Teresa May is on the ropes, a spent force. She’s a remainer at heart and I doubt she ever had the intention and will to really drive negotiations to reflect the will of the people. Brexit is more likely to wreck political careers than business and Treez, inevitably, will bite the dust the hardest. She will not survive the autumn and, actually, I wonder if she may well be out by the time this is read although the summer recess may save her.
Having said which…
Business at Pioneer Towers is better than it has been for some time. We have seen an increase in sales this last quarter on both trade and commercial and for the Group it will be a much better financial year. However my team have has worked very hard to retain clients and attract new business, both of which have been fruitful. We have been particularly good at nicking business as market growth, overall, remains slow.
I also believe that we have benefitted from a reduction in the numbers of fabricators (see ‘Windows are too cheap’, next), although I continue to be alarmed at the ease with which systems companies will set on other fabricators far too close to their existing customers.
In fact we have had to increase our workforce and, ironically, rather than making a hasty retreat to Dover I have just taken on two Bulgarians and seven Hungarian workers; if workers are fleeing, it isn’t from me.
I have been selling, making and fitting windows now for 30 years. And the price we get for a houseful of windows is, in real terms, cheaper than 25 years ago.
The number of fabricators has dropped significantly in the past ten years, which has allowed those of us that remain to continue. Installer numbers remain high, but the growth in trade counters signals a substantial change in the structure of our industry; more people responsible for fewer installations between them and white van man leading the charge.
I wonder if this will give rise to a drop in standards as the market becomes harder to influence in terms of quality and standards. Manufacturers are scrabbling for effective ways of communicating with these small traders to sell their products; why should it be any different for the likes of FENSA, Certass and others? I believe this could be a serious issue.