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14 April, 2022

We’re finally emerging from what I’ve seen described as a ‘polarising pandemic’ – one in which high-income households increased their savings and reduced their debts, while low-income families increased debts and reduced savings.

According to the Resolution Foundation, 47% of those on the highest incomes saved at least 10% more during the pandemic than they would normally and 17% saved at least 25% more. They were twice as likely as those on the lowest incomes to have reduced debt and significantly more likely to have reduced household spending. The end result is a £266bn savings mountain, largely concentrated in the bank accounts of the better off.

We all know that there is a cost-of-living crisis looming in the UK, with food and energy costs rocketing, inflation expected to hit at least 7% by the Spring, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine already making things considerably worse. This is bound to put a dampener on consumer confidence and spending, and I think there will be a significant impact on demand for mainstream mid-market products, as household budgets start to be squeezed.

However, just as there was throughout the pandemic, there will be winners and losers once again.

We will very likely see overall demand fall from the record levels we’ve experienced since 2020, but that £266bn, coupled with rising house prices, is likely to cushion the higher end of the market from the worst of the effects – even when you take into account the fact that costs are already starting to increase.

There’s no doubt that the aluminium sliders and bifolds that AluFold Direct supply are aspirational purchases, virtually guaranteed to add value to the home and very much in the eyeline of those who will still have money to spend.

Our customers still have every right to feel relatively confident going into 2022 – their real challenge will be to persuade aspirational buyers to spend on home improvements rather than on holidays or new cars. I think the key messages going out to the retail market need to be that the supply shortages which put some customers off tackling big projects last year are now largely behind us and that homeowners will not be paying over the odds for new sliders or bifolds in 2022 in the same way that they seem likely to pay over the odds for holidays or cars this year.

In terms of supply, AluFold Direct is in a good position to support those customers in targeting retail buyers and to help them unlock new business for 2022. Our stock levels remain high, and we are currently back to our market-leading lead times – one week on unglazed frames and two weeks on glazed – delivered anywhere in the UK.

The massive investments we made in our operation over the past two years are paying dividends for us and for installers who buy from us. We have massively increased capacity and now have an industrial scale manufacturing facility in Blackburn, capable of delivering the same kind of speed and service in aluminium that installers have been used to in PVC-U.

We have separate dedicated high-speed production lines for sliders, bifolds and windows, in contrast with most of our competitors who push all their products down the same line and are limited in terms of speed and volume as a result. Each of our lines has its own top of the range cutting and machining centres and fully automated four head crimpers, and that enables us to offer consistent and highly repeatable precision outputs at any scale.

Our focus at AluFold Direct is on quality, efficiency, and value – installers who choose to partner with us can relax knowing they will get all the support they need to make the most of the opportunities which will still exist and to mitigate the obstacles which the market will undoubtedly face.

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By Russell Yates, Managing Director, AluFold Direct