“The aluminium market won’t be rushed” Mark Rowland, MD

The title of this piece is something I said a few days ago, and I stand by it, despite many who have been quoting figures to me of the growth rates in aluminium glazing. This market is moving at its own steady pace.

Don’t get me wrong, I accept those growth rates. I agree wholeheartedly that aluminium makes perfect sense for both the domestic and commercial markets – otherwise my business, Lancashire Trade Frames, wouldn’t have made a substantial investment in aluminium fabrication machinery, expertise and marketing. But in the domestic market, we are starting from a very low base. For windows only 6% of purchases were aluminium in 2015. Even if the aluminium market grew at a rate of 10% each year, sales would still only represent around 10% of total window volumes in 2020.

The driving force behind much of this growth is from the aluminium door market. Aluminium bifolding doors have, in my opinion, considerable structural advantages over even the best PVC-U alternatives and have the desirable slim sightlines consumers are looking for. Aluminium also excels in large-scale sliding door installations and makes a very logical choice for the well-informed homeowner. The increased exposure to the benefits of aluminium offered by these two product lines is changing the consumers’ perception of the material’s suitability for windows. And this process is a gradual one. The window market has been so dominated for so long by PVC-U – which is affordable, energy-efficient and proven – that convincing consumers to switch isn’t an overnight job. It will take time.

In some ways, that’s how it should be. Instead of a seismic shift in the market, the industry needs time to adapt. A sudden boost in demand could lead to poor quality products entering the market which would be detrimental, and as an industry, we need to guard against this. And if the consequence of this is that the informed consumer has to wait a little longer for aluminium glazing than they might for PVC-U, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It implies that there’s demand for a valuable, scarce resource and ‘proves’ that what’s on offer is high quality. Would you rather wait for a table at a busy restaurant or walk straight into the empty place across the street?

Aluminium is a high-ticket purchase. With a lifespan of 40 plus years, purchasing maybe a once or twice in a lifetime decision. Naturally, consumers want to see what their peers are buying and how their decisions work for them. As the numbers of satisfied customers builds, as the domestic consumers’ experience with aluminium grows, growth in demand will start to accelerate. The product will prove itself and be a firmly established and significant proportion of the UK domestic market. When that day comes, we’ll be ready.

Going back to my original statement, long-term I believe it’s better for the market, the consumer and the aluminium suppliers if growth is steady. It’s the only way to keep quality high. After all, quality is one of the key factors which determine the decision to purchase aluminium.