End to end joinery experience

28 June 2023

Keys to success for joinery businesses large and small are pricing, marketing and taking the consumers’ product perspective, writes industry veteran Roy Wakeman

I have spent some 59 years or more developing the market for joinery products, both high volume with low margins and, for the past 20 years, low volume high margin bespoke products.

I have covered all routes to market from direct to consumer, through builders’ merchants and using architect’s and client’s specification. I have experienced high demand and also three major recessions, so marketing and pricing have become key tools of my trade.

In my time I have also held high positions in large companies and for the past 23 years worked with private equity partners improving businesses and selling them on.

In 2022 I moved from chairing the group I started to involvement in a local distributor and installation company, The New Window Co Ltd. I had previously bought the established business, which was an existing customer of our group. This meant dealing with some nine staff instead of hundreds and managing sales of less than £1m rather than the tens of millions I was accustomed to.

However, the issues are still the same as are the key performance measurements needed to manage and grow. We have been fortunate as the demand for timber products has grown, driven in no small part by our continuous promotion of the green credentials of timber. So much that now some four years later our revenues have grown by over 100% and our business model is so good we have now opened a new branch in Stamford, a town for sore eyes if you want to offer timber windows and doors for the heritage market.

Also, the sales mix in materials has dramatically changed. When I bought the business our sales of timber represented 40% of our sales mix and it is now in excess of 80%. This means our revenues have grown exponentially.

In my time as chairman of the Confederation of Timber Industries and my experience in the industry I have been lucky to have gained the knowledge as to how to promote timber products to the consumer.

After all, no matter what the supply channel is, the ultimate driver of demand remains with the consumer. Builders, architects, and distribution people are also consumers, so my philosophy has always been to address all channels from the consumers perspective.

Of course, the current story is easy to promote. Most people now are concerned about the world’s resources and sustainability issues, so much that plastic has almost become the pariah in our marketplace.

Now we learn that specification and performance are even more important.

Following the aftermath of Grenfell and other major construction issues it is now evident that product testing has to be specific almost to where the products will be used and that the historic misuse of test evidence can now longer prevail.

This will outlaw reference to global assessments and puts rightly the responsibility and cost on the specifying source and product manufacturer.

Clearly our fully finished products being timber fenestration or doorsets have a fabulous future and we must all take full advantage.

Roy Wakeman