Cautious optimism across the industry as firms anticipate growth

Andy McDowell
Andy McDowell
Andy McDowell
Andy McDowell

The UK’s glass and glazing industry looks set to experience a period of expansion over the next two years, with firms upping their headcounts and planning further investment in order to take advantage of a number of opportunities in the market, according to research from Pilkington United Kingdom.

The study, which surveyed 318 Pilkington United Kingdom customers across the supply chain – including fabricators, installers and architects – found that two thirds (66%) plan to recruit more staff over the next two years.

A conservative estimate for the average number of jobs firms are hoping to create in the next two years is three per organisation. If replicated across the industry, this could mean thousands of new roles across the sector.

The expected uplift in job creation appears to be underpinned by a forecast increase in turnover for many businesses, with the average firm forecasting growth of at least 10% over the next two years.

The survey also shows businesses are planning to invest in developing new products and improving their infrastructure to capitalise on opportunities. Almost two fifths (37%) said they plan to develop their product range while nearly a third (32%) are planning to upgrade their premises or machinery.

The research also highlighted that firms are anticipating an uplift in the number of new houses being built, something that was confirmed by the last Autumn Statement, in which the Chancellor announced the biggest house building initiative since the 1970s.

A third of businesses (32%) said an upturn in the construction of new homes would allow them to grow, while a quarter (24%) cited increased spend by property owners on energy efficiency improvements and other retrofits as a growth driver.

Nearly a quarter (23%) said that the relaxation of the planning laws – a proposal introduced by the government in the summer budget – was an important step in helping their firm pursue a more ambitious expansion strategy.

Andy McDowell, commercial director at Pilkington United Kingdom, said: “There has been no shortage of pessimistic forecasts for the performance of the glazing market in recent years, and while many firms are still operating with caution, this survey shows clear signs of growing confidence in some parts of the industry. The commercial sector in particular is a buoyant market, with many of our customers citing healthy order books.”

When questioned about the greatest obstacle currently facing their business, the rising cost of materials came out on top with more than half of respondents (52%) highlighting it as the biggest challenge in the two years ahead.

One in three respondents (33%) said that low spend in the domestic market as a result of tough economic conditions would be the biggest challenge, while just over a quarter (27%) named the cost of employment as the main hurdle.

Other challenges included lack of skills in the labour market (25%) and sluggish spending in the commercial sector (23%).

Perhaps surprisingly, overseas competition was named as a threat by just 5% of firms, compared to 22% that flagged domestic competition.

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