The bifolding door market we think is healthy, active and here to stay. A byproduct of a healthy market is increased and more challenging competition. For an established bifolding door business increased competition is not necessarily a threat, but an opportunity to adapt diversity and grow.
With increased competition, it is reasonable to see lower prices for a product and wider availability of the same system for the customer. In reaction to a challenging market, greater availability, lower prices and increased competition how are the established and successful aluminium fabricators responding?
Is the bifolding door losing its luxury status?
Some in the industry report that the bifolding door industry is in danger of saturation and fear that the premium and luxury status of the bifold will reduce to that of a simple replacement window with the price being the driver to securing a sale. Some even say that there is a risk that bifolding door manufacturers will go bust as a result. It is not market forces that take a business under, it is failing to adapt to change.
There are countless examples of companies that didn’t adapt to change and either failed or are still struggling. Woolworths, Blockbuster, HMV, Comet, Kodak, Borders, GAME, Clinton Cards, Jessops are some examples. Their competitors did adapt to change and are still surviving to this day.
Several years ago it was true that a bifolding door cold command a premium for its exclusivity and desirability. The fenestration sector and indeed the consumer now we see the bifolding door as a product within the mix of other established home improvement products such as windows, composite doors, roofs and French doors.
So if the bifolding door is no longer perceived as a luxury status symbol for a home, we say so what?
How are bifolding door manufacturers adapting to competition?
There are over fifty bifolding door products or systems available to buy. Insight Data reports in the region of 800 fabricators, many of which offer a bifolding door in their product range.
Some of these doors are UK designed and made. Others are European systems. Some bifolding doors are available from systems companies perceived as not serving the consumer market and only active in the commercial sector.
There are also specialist bifolding door providers with niche products such as structural glass folding doors, frameless bifolding doors and even automatic bifolding doors. When it comes to bifolding doors, there is still choice and niche products.
Most trade manufacturers do not only make bifolding doors.
It is important to know that trade suppliers do not only make bifolding doors. In fact, there are few companies in the UK today that only make bifolding doors and nothing else. Those that did start out making bifolding doors have quickly diversified into making sliding doors and windows. There are also businesses we work with that only make their core product but still choose to offer a complete home solution by buying in other products.
Many trade manufacturers have a strong commercial side to their business, a maintenance team and other facets. Some trade manufacturers also make more than five different systems. Some even develop their own or customise an existing system.
In short, businesses adapt to survive. Smart business owners will be aware of what the market is doing and are changing their business model accordingly.
Let us give you some real world examples of how established business have changed from their original business model.
Aluminium Fabricators that have adapted to a changing market
Origin Global started out making only bifolding doors. Origin is now one of the largest bifolding door manufacturers in the UK. Origin is an excellent example of a company that was a pioneer in bifolding doors. They are well aware of their increased competition since starting out making only bifolding doors.
Origin also pioneered the fast aluminium lead time, the availability of stock colours and the exceptional customer service. Others have followed suit with similar services that Origin were the first to introduce.
Origin’s response is to continually evaluate their business, bring out new products and look after their network of dealers better than ever. The result is that Origin’s sales and profits continue to rise year on year.
Origin has now introduced their Residential Entrance Door and an aluminium garage door. Origin is now no longer a bifolding door company but a credible systems company with a range of products for the entire home. It will be no surprise to see sliding doors and even an aluminium roof added to their product line soon.
KAT UK is another example of an established trade supplier manufacturing PVCu windows, sash windows and PVCu patio doors.
KAT UK now also provide Schuco and AluK bifolding doors as well as aluminium windows. KAT UK still offers these products but have diversified into the growing market for aluminium entrance doors with their new Spitfire Door Range and more recently the KATpod aluminium roof. None of these are KAT’s own systems but it doesn’t matter. They are diversifying and adapting.
Sliders UK was already established as a trade manufacturer of PVCu doors. They have diversified into aluminium using AluK systems and have further diversified into the introduction of their new Evolution Bifolding door.
Express Bifolding Doors
Express Bifolds is an excellent example of a company that is enormous yet has just invested in what is arguably the biggest, unique and possibly the best door and window showroom in the UK.
They have diversified into a large number of home improvement products, such as the Augmentory Extension, kitchens and other home improvement products. Express have realised their business has to grow into more than their name suggests and diversity to products that offer a ‘complete home solution’.
Everglade Windows are one of the UK’s biggest and best-known trade suppliers. Everglade Windows have an extensive product range, a commercial side to their business and a huge number of trade customers. They used this longevity and expertise to design and create the aïr suite of folding and sliding doors.
Sales of aïr doors continue to grow in three years after their launch. Air bifolding and sliding doors are chosen for the showrooms of some of the best known and longest established window companies and home design businesses in the UK.
Anyone involved in commercial aluminium knows Kawneer. A systems company of solid reputation in the commercial, education, retail, housing and other sectors. They are changing their business to focus their excellent range of aluminium systems directly at the consumer market. They are evolving as a business into a new market.
Alumina by Liniar.
We have to give credit to any PVCu systems company that chooses to bring out a new aluminium bifold in a busy and healthy market. This becomes even more challenging with bifolds largely all having similar specifications, performance standards, quality hardware and features.
Liniar examined the market and created a product that in our view is unique, individual and addresses customer requirements many other bifolds do not.
Synseal has brought out the excellent Warmcore System of bi-folding doors, french doors and windows. Synseal also has their new aluminium Stratus roof. Another good example of a PVCu systems company entering the aluminium market at its peak and getting their aluminium products right.
CDW Systems have been established for over 20 years serving their trade market. They are one of the most successful trade suppliers in the UK alongside others such as Duration Windows, Affordable Aluminium and Garrards.
CDW introduce a new system every year to keep ahead of the game and continue to offer their customers choice in fabricated residential and commercial windows and doors.
Even local double glazing firms are adapting to change.
Window companies are improving their business. Many have realised that selling just one bifolding door system is not enough as they are catering to or wish to reach different categories of customers.
Where previously these local firms did well with an AluK or Smarts door, they have seen prices come down, not to mention several websites now referring to these brands as ‘the trade bifold’. This is not exactly true of these products but a symptom of when a system becomes available everywhere.
However, it demonstrates that local firms have a need for a well priced bifold, a medium market bifold and the luxury door. So installers are now providing products to make them cater to a wider class of customer including the wealthy one.
Many local double glazing firms have diversified into other products such as kitchens, garden rooms, decking, solid insulated roofs, conservatory roof replacement and much more. Rather than being a window company they, like Express Bifolding Doors are diversifying into a home improvement company.
Have your say.
What do you think? Are you an established trade manufacturer or installer? How have you seen the bifolding door and general home improvement industry change? Are you adapting your business with new products or new services?
Where do you see the aluminium sector in the coming years? Leave a comment and tell us your views or why not complete our aluminium systems survey?