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Glazing Clippings and Musings March 2016 by Helen Duval

So ‘Show Season’ has really begun with gusto. It’s red carpet and marketing all the way through the Spring and Summer, with expos including EcoBuild, Home Renovation, Fensterbau and of course the long awaited FIT Show all opening their doors to inspire us with the blood, sweat and toil from the industry’s best R&D departments.

Earlier in March, Ecobuild was an absolute delight to walk, with its positive vibe about industry potential and a colourful array of specialist speakers in attendance. These ranged from broadcasters such as Daisy McAndrew to David Hancock, Head of UK Construction at the Cabinet Office, through to the affable protagonist Mr Stephen Fry, all of whom raised key ecological issues and brought the need for sustainable housing powerfully into focus.

The erudite Cathy Newman alongside Peter Halsall of the Good Homes Alliance highlighted pertinent aspects about affordability, the cost of design and the prerequisites for urban regeneration. All issues which remain a focus for this industry as it moves forward to combat the threats associated with climate change.

Likewise, with home renovation energising the consumer to spend, this sector remains high on everyone’s agenda from the product designers to manufacturers and marketers, all keen for the attentions of the investors. The Home Renovation Show at the NEC will no doubt once again demonstrate that thermal efficiency and reduced energy bills will continue to be priorities when investing. This certainly was the case with visitors I talked to at the last expo.

Good Intentions!
The budget brought no real surprises, with the government describing it as one for the small businesses where it would adhere to its long term economic plans.

For the business and construction sector, big measures appear to have taken shape in the form of a reduction in business rates where 250,000 will see their rates reduced from April next year and 600,000 small companies will pay no rates at all.

The threshold for small business rate relief will be permanently increased from £6,000 to a maximum of £15,000 and higher rate relief will rise from £18,000 to £51,000.

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-general, CBI welcomed the news: “This was a stable Budget for business facing global stormy waters. The Chancellor has listened to our concerns about the mounting burden on firms and chosen to back business to grow the economy out of the deficit.

Businesses will welcome the Chancellor’s permanent reforms to business rates –the reduction in the headline Corporation Tax rate sends out a strong signal that the UK is open for global business investment.”

The skills shortage continues to hamper growth however and is driving up wages throughout the construction industry to far above the national average. This could potentially put some of the government’s biggest housing and infrastructure programmes at risk. A considerable 66% of construction professionals cited labour shortages as the most significant growth barrier in the final quarter of 2015, with bricklayers and quantity surveyors being in particularly short supply according to a recent RICS article.

Hot Topics
I’ve got to say I’m really into reading the DGB every morning, there are some extremely thought provoking issues raised that really do make you sit and think about the massive shifts that could occur within the sector, depending on adherence to new legislation, the Brexit, quality standards and that all important end user.

One thing is for sure whether we stay in the EU or whether we go, there will be big changes. All things have to as a matter of course and Cameron has renegotiated our position. So, everyone is geared to create new, better, faster and brighter options to leapfrog competitors – that is the way of the world surely? How this is done will be an adjustment, but of what magnitude remains to be seen.

However, one article recently written made me sit up sharply and makes me think long and hard about – focus. Economically, I understand that there is some uncertainty around which leaves people questioning direction, but I do think that the sector as a whole is incredibly driven to succeed, particularly when its back is against the wall. Back in 2008 when all things started to crumble, there were some incredibly focused individuals who surfaced like phoenixes, reshaped a struggling industry and who today continue to set benchmarks.

Marketing would seem to have been at the crux of it all then and from what I have read, continues to be so now. A slick strategy helps customers gain ground. So what are the best routes these days? Websites and blogs help hugely here of course, they are fast and effective. Likewise, well designed POS material that simply sells the merits of a range in a way that is most useful to the installer has to be a great method of bringing things into focus for investors. It does however need to be clear, concise and uncomplicated.

There have certainly been some hot topics globally that have been grabbing everyone’s attention, whether it’s the Brexit, Trump’s ‘Storm’ across the US or Leo DiCaprio’s hard-earned final Oscar win. Whilst the last two have little (at the moment), technical bearing on the sector, they do show what can be done with a little persistence and steely determination. Now that is something this industry can relate to with the tenacity of its leaders and its ability to innovate and reinvigorate enthusiasm. The aforementioned exhibitions demonstrate that too, again and again.

Coffee Houses and Getting The Message Out There
As journalist Heather Brookes once said, ‘Our printing press is the internet. Our coffee houses are now Social Media.’ It does make me smile when people criticise the online marketing and news forums – particularly when it seems to be the first route they choose to fire off angry messages about the benefits in their opinion, of not using it. How funny.

Online – well, obviously I’m in favour of this – and for a number of reasons.
Online media, news and shopping continues to be one of the fastest growing arenas. It changes almost daily and mostly for the better. Tighter legislation is bringing into check fraudulent and abusive behaviour, so it is an extremely beneficial tool. It is more ecologically friendly, which has to be a superb benefit to the planet. Personally, I would far rather have 100 emails cluttering up my inbox daily, than one unwanted piece of a paperchain through my letterbox which has resulted in the unnecessary felling of a tree. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good read and a well tailored brochure because I remember it. The effort in making something like that attractive to the eye always reflects well. It’s not a waste and it is remembered for its quality.

As for emails – they can be absorbed by the spam system or I can always unsubscribe if it really becomes that intrusive. Online technology has the ability to change thought processes in a nanosecond. No matter how people struggle against it, the internet and its associated technology is here. It is not going anywhere. It is growing and it is morphing daily, mostly for the better.

So I will close where I began – looking forward to the next FIT Show in Telford. I am already looking forward to meeting up with a few exhibitors, visitors and colleagues there, but also I’m excited to see the new innovations promised that will once again reinvigorate the sector.

Written by Helen Duval 2016

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