I saw a lot of colleagues from right across the industry at the start of this month. Among those I spoke to there was a general sense of hopefulness that September, October and November would deliver sales – a cautious optimism.
While you couldn’t exactly set your watch by it, before the height of the Covid-19 pandemic there was always a seasonality to window and door sales. Summer delivered slimmer pickings ahead of a more rewarding autumn.
For the past three years, everyone has been busy. We were riding the crest of a wave that seemed, for a very long time, like it was never going to fall. But now it has. Are we now going to go back to the pre-Covid cycle, a seasonality to sales?
A lot of retail companies are hoping that that’s the case, after a relatively lacklustre summer. And there is an argument that suggests some return of seasonality to retail sales, according to those window and door retail businesses that have been tracking their performance this year against 2019.
But there are also some big differences between then and now. The first is inflation.
In September 2019, inflation was 1.7%. The current rate of inflation may be falling but at 6.8%, albeit down from a peak of an eyewatering 11.8% in January, remains by comparison, high.
The reverse is true of house price inflation. House prices for the quarter July to September 2019 were up 4%. By comparison, UK house prices have suffered their biggest fall in 14 years, according to the lender Halifax. They are down 4.6% year-on-year in August.
There is context to this: average house prices remain at £279,569. That compares to £215,352 in September 2019, putting today’s average house price almost 30% higher than it was only four years ago.
The headlines – and with them perception and consumer confidence – have, however, changed from record lows in inflation to record highs, and to falling rather than increasing house prices. For my money, I believe that we will see some return to seasonality this autumn but it won’t be as pronounced as it has been in the past. We need to work harder to win sales.
We’re certainly working hard to support our customers and help them win more business through our sales support offer. This includes launching our new composite door collection lifestyle brochure, ‘You’re Home With Hurst’.
It showcases door styles and glass options, and is packed with lifestyle imagery designed to inspire homeowners. It also explains door performance in simple and easy-to-understand terms, with additional explanations of performance delivered in short, professionally created videos that can be accessed via a QR code. Think of it as having an extra salesperson in your retail sales team but someone who always sticks to the script!
This is where we need to be as an industry. People will still spend, but we need to rethink our approach and maximise sales through a successful marriage between established sales and marketing tools and new platforms.
Sales director, Hurst Doors