HARD TIMES FOR DOOR HARDWARE?

Hard Times for Door HardwareHow confident are you about the short-term future growth of the UK Architectural Ironmongery trade? Not very it would seem. I carried out a straw poll on twitter asking just that

If you buy, sell or distribute Architectural Ironmongery in the UK, how confident are you about market growth in the next twelve months?

I have a lot of door and window hardware manufacturers, distributors and users of AI products in my follower list and the answer came back loud and clear:

  • Confident: 14%
  • Not sure: 29%
  • Unconfident: 57%

That makes quite worrying reading for those of us working in the sector.

According to AMA Research’s most recent survey (much more in depth and scientific than mine of course!) published early this year, “the market for door and window fittings saw moderate growth of around 3% in 2017. This is lower than in 2016, in line with slowing growth rates for the construction market as a whole.” You can read more about the report’s results and buy a copy of it here 

This seems to be in line with general consumer confidence. Speaking in June 2018, Joe Staton, Client Strategy Director at market research specialists GfK, says, “Consumers are yet again feeling less upbeat as is evident from the two-point drop in the Overall Index Score this month. We are reporting falls across all key measures. Scores on personal finance are down but there is a more marked deterioration in our levels of optimism about the general state of the economy, with the verdicts on the past year and the coming year each tumbling four points.” Of course, Brexit and the uncertainty around it are a major driver of that pessimism and a long hard winter certainly didn’t do the construction industry any favours.

Certainly, when I chat off the record with hardware manufacturers and distributors, market strength seems to be patchy. In answer to the ubiquitous “How’s business?” question the answers tend to be of the “up and down”, “unpredictable” and “steady but not spectacular” type. Outside the capital there is clearly less buoyancy in hardware sales – I would hazard a guess that London accounts for the majority of any growth that is out there. Low cost suppliers continue to drive prices down and the sector remains both fragmented and competitive.

Perhaps the pessimism is misplaced though. AMA’s findings show that “for 2018 and beyond, forecasts indicate marginal but positive growth, based on improving housing and construction markets – though growth will be constrained by price pressure and strong competition.” So not enough to set the world on fire but growth nonetheless.

The main drivers in the UK construction industry at the moment are major  civils projects but with not too many door handles required for Crossrail or HS2 that is unlikely to make much of an impact in architectural ironmongery sales. The main hopes must lie with stronger house building, a continuation of RMI buoyancy and an increased emphasis on fire safety and security and the role that correctly specified door hardware can play in these scenarios.

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