Are Commercial and residential systems the same?

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Nick Dardalis

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Our recent article about how commercial systems can be used in a residential property reinforces that there is a different perception by fabricators and installers of commercial and residential systems.

What it also reinforces for you as an installer is that unless you have both commercial and residential experience you may be losing out sales opportunities. What it says to us, more importantly, is that the aluminium industry is not getting its marketing right. And, it could be costing the grass roots installer sales, and limiting choice for the end user customer.

Who is responsible for bringing a brand in front of the consumer?

kawneer windows and doors in residential properties.
Who is responsible for placing a brand in front of a consumer? Is it the systems company, a fabricator or an installer?

Study the websites of some of the best home improvement companies in the UK, and they all seem to offer the same products and the same systems. Is this ‘me too’ philosophy that seems to have been adopted stifling the market or making it more competitive?

Aluminium may be more expensive than PVCu, but the same ‘buy on price’ principle that has plagued the mass PVCu market for nearly three decades has started to infect the aluminium sector as well.  One needs only to look at trade media to see bifolding doors at rock-bottom prices by some suppliers.

Are you an installer that buys fabricated aluminium windows and doors from a trade supplier? If so, how much choice to you have? What influenced your decision as to what system to buy? Was it price, service or the perception of the system as more residential than commercial?

Have you ever considered looking at systems like

  • Comar
  • Kawneer
  • Kestrel
  • Senior
  • Technal
  • IKON
  • Or others?

If you did, what did you think?

Despite the best efforts of the home improvement industry to market itself as a diverse industry with a broad range of products, we believe installers and homeowners are missing out on the range of aluminium systems by other systems companies.

What we find interesting about the recent episode of Grand Designs featuring Senior Architectural Systems is that it reinforces what we have believed for a long time.  That the residential market as diverse as it might appear is missing out on a fantastic range of windows and doors that are unjustifiably perceived as commercial. Even Senior acknowledges that they are regarded as a commercial systems company in their recent press release.

Are systems companies getting their marketing wrong?

The multi-tiered and complex nature of the door and window industry we think is stifling opportunity for you as a grass roots installer.  After all, it is you the installer that ultimately sells a product to the end user. It is your showroom they visit; it is your chosen products they see.

Of course, the current customer will do their research in trying to find the most suitable window and door for their home. What they’ll also find in many cases is a lack of choice unless they know how to source the right windows and doors. But more on that later.

We think, a combination of incorrect marketing by the Systems Companies, the little desire by trade suppliers to provide real value to their customers and complacency by installers is to blame.

If you’re reading this article as a systems company, a fabricator or as an installer, who do you think is responsible for bringing the system itself in front of the consumer?

Who is responsible for selling a brand to the customer? The installer or the systems company?

What should be done to make a customer desire and ask for by name, a Reynaers Sliding door, the brilliant Smarts Alitherm 47 Heritage suite or the splendid AluK window? Let’s look at what options are available in the key tiers of the aluminium supply chain.

The Aluminium Systems Company.

new rental properties with aluminium windows.
Senior PURe windows have been specified in a 1.8m contract of new windows for dwellings in Manchester.

If we look at how aluminium systems are marketed it seems the systems companies could be getting it wrong.

With few exceptions, study the press releases of the systems companies, and they are mostly targeted at the specifier.  Their press releases are consistent in highlighting that their systems have been installed in recent commercial developments of schools, hospitals, colleges, airports or office buildings.

All the systems companies offer an excellent range of residential windows and doors including sliding and bifolding doors. However, some systems companies such as Senior Architectural Systems, Kawneer, Kestrel, Comar, Metal Technology and others install these in developments of new flats and houses.  Does the homeowner ever see these systems in the typical double glazing showroom?

It is understandable that the systems company focuses on commercial contracts and getting their systems specified. This is a crucial market for a systems company.  However, the beneficiary of brilliant, innovative and well-designed aluminium windows and doors by systems like Seniors or Kawneer tends to be the purchaser of these new properties rather than the typical homeowner replacing their old windows or building a new extension. In several areas, these commercially perceived systems are different and in many cases more innovative and better.

But what about this type of customer? Should the systems companies not be developing their brand to bring it right in front of these clients more? Or is this the responsibility of their fabricators? We already have homeowner focused websites by Reynaers and AluK but what we don’t know is how effective these are.

The aluminium fabricator.

retail double glazing brochure.
REAL Aluminium offers an easy to understand yet highly comprehensive retail brochure that sells and informs on aluminium.

Certain aluminium manufacturers offer a general product range and others that provide a broad product line.  CDW Systems in Gloucester that fabricates for the trade has publicly stated that part of their growth strategy is to bring in one new system a year. This is fantastic news for their customer base, but CDW Systems is the exception rather than the rule.

If your aluminium fabricator is buying bar length and extrusions from a systems company, their function as a business is to provide unglazed fabricated doors and windows to installers.  Many trade suppliers offer fantastic marketing packages to their customers. Real Aluminium By Customade, Lister Trade Frames, Everglade Windows are just three examples of experienced and long established trade manufacturers that consider it necessary to support their installers with showroom set-ups, brochures, samples and marketing support.

Origin is a fantastic example of a business that believes in the overall brand.  Few trade suppliers offer Origin branded boxes, end user manuals and even key fobs. Visit their factor and their brand is everywhere for their staff and customers to see. Most trade suppliers will not make this effort to promote their brand.

You the installer.

Depending on the size of your business how do you sell your windows and doors? Do you leave it up to your trade supplier to provide you with literature or is this up to the systems company? How do you go about researching what aluminium doors and windows to sell? Are you even aware of the systems available to you by other systems companies that feature on Grand Designs where your system may not? Why are these systems specified in the first place?

We think the systems companies should focus the same amount of effort in marketing to the end user as they do to architects and specifiers.  If people are coming into your showroom asking for a product by name, you are more likely to source it. And if that customer is insistent, they’ll go elsewhere.

Those that fabricate and install are the more expert window company.

senior curtain walling and windows in a house.
Commercial Senior SCW+Curtain Walling and SPW600 Doors featured in this idyllic modern home.

Look at Grand Designs and other home renovation shows, and it is a different type of window company that comes to the forefront.  These are not new businesses, they have been around for a long time.  These are the companies that fabricate and install.

Alphamet in Manchester and Soundcraft Doors and Windows are two examples of window companies that manufacture, install and carry out commercial as well as residential work. They have the expertise to look at a project and know that they can offer not just a residential suite of windows and doors but a commercial one as well.

Our research into who has carried out the installations of windows and doors on programmes such as Grand Designs shows that it is these manufacturing and installation companies that are often chosen.

Aluminium Systems companies must engage more with the end user.

We are currently carrying out an aluminium systems company survey that is reinforcing what we’ve long believed. That the perception of aluminium systems companies is mostly formed by how they market themselves.  And most are choosing the commercial route rather than the residential even though they have domestic products on offer.

The product range of many Systems Companies is perceived by many as commercial when the reality is that they are entirely fit for purpose residentially in any application. We wonder if the systems companies are happy with this perception? We hope to help them when we reveal the results of our survey later in the year.

As good as the marketing by systems companies may be, there should be less reliance on their fabricators that fabricate and install to sell their systems and less dependence on the installer by the trade manufacturer as well.

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16:42 30 Oct 23
Nick responded incredibly quickly to my enquiry (on a Saturday too!), and was able to offer invaluable advice on both aluminum systems and manufacturer / suppliers. Thanks Nick!
chris steerchris steer
16:18 09 Oct 23
Had a meeting with Nick during the grand designs show. Was extremely helpful and professional would highly recommend
Chris WesthorpChris Westhorp
19:55 13 Sep 23
Extremely helpful with pointing us in the right direction to find the products we required and suggesting firms that could reliably fit them.Nick was quick to reply and very detailed in his advice.Highly recommend reaching out to them.
Cathy GreenwoodCathy Greenwood
07:03 11 Sep 23
Update - A second email to nick for help on bifolds resulted in a detailed informative reply even on a Sunday ! This guy is so knowledgable and helpful .I approached Nick for an independent view on sliding doors v bifold and the different brand options . His reply was extremely detailed and prompt and allowed me to navigate this often confusing world in a much more informed way . Thanks so much Nick
Anthony CraigAnthony Craig
12:45 05 Sep 23
This is a must site for anyone looking for advice. Great service and very quick answers to questions. Nick has been of great help quiding us through the maze of aluminium products. Thank you
Philip DuffieldPhilip Duffield
20:24 26 Jul 23
I contacted Nick @ ATS for guidance on what aluminium sliding door systems would be suitable for an opening in an extension that is going to be both wide and tall. He came back really quickly with very detailed and incredibly helpful advice. He is clearly extremely knowledgeable about the systems on the market and their respective features and capabilities. If you’re feeling a bit lost by the overwhelming range of choices out there, I’d definitely recommend contacting him.
Dariush HekmatDariush Hekmat
17:25 19 Jul 23
Nick's advice is great. He is always quick to respond and spends time on responses, which really help to make an informed decision.
Alan FosterAlan Foster
07:51 12 Jul 23
Absolutely fantastic. Asked for advice about replacing Crittall (?) windows late last night and early this morning received 3 great suggestions and contact information for suppliers
Rachel LauRachel Lau
09:24 16 Jun 23
Fantastic website full of valuable and pragmatic advice about product selection and comparison: no other website gives information like this. Truly written for public interest. Don't hesistate to reach out to Nick via the mailing system. He responds very quickly, is friendly, and has very sound and high knowledgable advice. I have already shared this with my friend planning her own grand design.
guard Charlieguard Charlie
12:28 14 May 23
I emailed this company just on the off chance they could help me with new magnetic sliders for my patio door. They were not able to supply those but were so very helpful providing me with the name of a company who could. I am so very grateful at the great service. Dare say customers must be very happy. thank you so much.
Benjamin LewisBenjamin Lewis
10:06 04 May 23
Nick is very helpful indeed. Extremely knowledgeable on bifolds which was in relation to my query. Great website as well, some very useful articles. Particularly appreciated the article that lists all the major bifold options in order of their sightlines! Thank you!
P JonesP Jones
08:07 15 Apr 23
I asked Nick some questions about an installation we were considering and he replied within hours with some very useful suggestions that will probably lead us to using a different make and supplier. Thanks, Nick. Great work.
Nicholas WallNicholas Wall
13:18 02 Apr 23
Looking for fair and honest expert advice on all aspect of aluminium windows and doors? These guys will arm you with all the information you need to make the RIGHT choice in a highly complex, crowded marketplace. post a question and you will get a very quick professional answer you can rely on being based on fact. Thanks guys!
Giorgia SiriacoGiorgia Siriaco
16:25 21 Mar 23
After a lot of research to find doors that would meet our unusual size requirements and feeling increasingly uncertain about the best way to spend our small budget, I stumbled on the ATS website, and I'm so glad I did! I contacted ATS to request advice and Nick promptly replied with a wealth of information, providing us with options and relevant contact details. I only wish I'd found them sooner!
Carol NortonCarol Norton
10:01 17 Mar 23
I've been so confused about how to achieve the look I'm after, and going round in circles with various window/door companies, trying to get away from the huge chunks of plastic currently around my windows. I didn't expect an email to a company found through a Google search to really help - but I was desperate, so I tried. I'm SO glad I did. Finally I have clear explanations from ATS of where I've been going wrong, exactly what I'm looking for, and a list of local companies that might be able to provide it! The response has excelled my expectations and I feel as if I'm finally inching closer to a home with which I'll be happy and comfortable: thank you.
David NunnDavid Nunn
20:54 14 Mar 23
It is rare that I write reviews, however after my very positive communication with Nick - enquiring about suitable slim sash aluminium windows for my project, I felt that a review was definitely warranted. I can reinforce the many positive reviews posted so far, Nick was very quick to respond, providing comprehensive detail, with excellent independent advice.In summary, great service, thank you Nick.
Chantal AuerbachChantal Auerbach
13:04 09 Mar 23
Nick from Aluminium Trade Supply was incredibly helpful informative and pleasant to deal with. He responded quickly to emails and was very knowledgeable. Highly recommend being in touch with Nick if you are considering new aluminium windows or doors.
Lee JonesLee Jones
20:21 22 Feb 23
I dropped Nick at Aluminium Trade Supply an email re high security slim sightline bi-folds and their alternatives and he responded that quickly (and so comprehensively) that I felt bad I’d not paid him for his time!Nick Sir your product knowledge is outstanding and you are providing a level of service that goes wayyyy above and beyond expectations. I’ll definitely make sure I mention Aluminium Trade Supply to anyone I encounter looking for a fenestration solution 🙏🏼
15:13 13 Feb 23
We are looking to replace some old UPVC patios doors with aluminium ones. The ATS website is a great source of advice in an area where clear information is sorely lacking. Having used the website, I then followed this up with a number of specific questions relating to our search, and Nick came back very quickly with clear, detailed and very useful advice.I have been very impressed with both the website and with Nick's advice. My only regret is that I didn't come across ATS before replacing various windows in 2021 - I'm sure it would have saved me a lot of grief and money! Thanks again Nick.
Azza McCabeAzza McCabe
17:47 01 Feb 23
So impressed with this company.Responded to my query quickly andgave valuable advice. Nick was extremely helpful and we were able to move forward with our project.
Adri LoloçiAdri Loloçi
11:21 08 Jan 23
Nick was super fast to respond and provided some great recommendations. I would recommend this website to anyone looking to find bifold or sliding aluminium doors.
Stephen HoustonStephen Houston
16:16 03 Jan 23
Looking for aluminium crittall style internal door and external patio French doors. Noted good reviews and thought would ask for advice. Comprehensive reply with excellent independent advice and lists of fitters who could provide products and installation. Great service.
Inga GeachInga Geach
08:25 21 Dec 22
Nick from Aluminium Trade Supply has been extremely helpful with navigating the jungle that is aluminium glazing for our upcoming extension project. His advice was prompt, detailed and always impartial. Very grateful for your input, thanks Nick!
Amanda BurtonAmanda Burton
10:54 16 Dec 22
Brilliant website and an excellent service. Nick provided not only detailed advice and supplier contacts, but highlighted the considerations of various products so I could make an informed choice. Our Sunvista minimal sliders were fitted this week and I couldn't be happier, stunning. Thanks once again for your advice and recommendations, invaluable!
Keith BarnesKeith Barnes
17:18 10 Dec 22
Very helpful advice given to my question, including the name of 3 different companies that i could try for the product being enquired about. Many thanks
Munim ChowdhuryMunim Chowdhury
11:45 13 Sep 22
Nick has been very helpful on signposting me to a number of partner organisations for steel/aluminium doors.
SUSAN wallaceSUSAN wallace
17:26 31 Aug 22
My experience with this firm was exceptionally good and this is notalways the case as a female, dipping a toe into technical waters.I was spoken too with courtesy and at a level that helped me consolidate what was needed .On top of that I was given a list of companies and places where I could obtain the type of product I needed.I could not thank them enough and would certainly go there again and reccommend others do too.
Paul SalterPaul Salter
22:39 22 Aug 22
Contacting Aluminium Trade Supply is like contacting the Oracle direct. Advice is always comprehensive and balanced. On multiple occasions they have provided me with options that fully meet our objectives. Many thanks.
Nick McCormackNick McCormack
20:25 14 Aug 22
Really helpful and useful came back to me on a Sunday with some invaluable information. Highly recommended.
ray addisonray addison
13:14 14 Aug 22
received a prompt reply to my query,and helpful information from ATS