As this interview with Ian Cocken – aluplast’s director of sales and marketing – takes place, a handful of high-profile large fabricators have either called in the administrators, or are rumoured to be struggling.
It also coincides with news from the Office for National Statistics that insolvencies (across the board) are at their highest since the financial crisis of 2009, which underlines the concern that volume in the window and door industry is down.
“We’ve heard anecdotally that leads have been reducing in number for about the last year,” Cocken says. “And we have seen that feed through to our orders to some extent. But they are not at the levels that some people are reporting.
“Yes, cash isn’t as readily available as it was in the months following the series of lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, but there is still significant activity.”
Cocken makes the point that larger fabricators are typically well-known because of their size, which creates a distorted view of the market.
“Size really doesn’t matter,” Cocken says. “A well-run business is a well-run business, and we work with our customers to make the most of the opportunities that are available. And to provide a secure supply of profile to help them create a stronger brand.
“This creates a virtuous circle, since as supplier, we can then invest in our own infrastructure to provide an even better service and product range.
“It’s a strategy carefully designed by aluplast, and it is currently paying off.”
At the heart of aluplast’s strategy is a significant investment in its new extrusion and distribution facility in Poland.
Built at a cost of more than 50 million euros, the plant sits on a 15-hectare site. Fifty high-speed extrusion lines are currently being installed, alongside a mixing plant, R&D facilities and foiling lines.
Cocken points out that since aluplast is still a family-run business, this decision to invest in infrastructure was made five years ago – before the pandemic.
“aluplast isn’t managed by investors,” he says. “Decisions made at board level are made for the long-term health of the business, and for the benefit of our customers.
“We are also improving our facilities here in the UK. Again, this isn’t to meet current demand, but future requirements, especially as we welcome new customers and extend our product ranges.”
Cocken says that aluplast won a significant amount of new business in the wake of the covid pandemic as it was able to continue supplying product as others struggled, and again more recently as suppliers have withdrawn from the market.
“Right now, the focus is on a secure supply of high value products,” he says. “And we are seeing this translate into higher sales for our flush casement window and doors, which are compatible with our Ideal 70 and Ideal 4000 profiles, along with a wide colour choice on short lead times.
“Customers are also showing increased interest in our flush-fit, 76mm Ideal neo window, and our Smart-Slide neo sliding door system, both of which offer industry leading levels of thermal performance, and which can open new opportunities as we approach a low-carbon future.”
Cocken is keen to stress that aluplast is not positioning itself simply as a profile supplier, but as a partner.
“We’ve seen how businesses struggle if they simply compete on price,” he says. “Unfortunately, as a strategy, that doesn’t have legs. We are much more interested in investing in the future, today, and taking our customers on that journey with us.”