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As we say goodbye to a tumultuous 2011 and enter a new year, we asked Graham Hinett, Chief Executive Officer of FENSA, for his views on what 2012 may have in store.

The glazing industry – in common with others - is having a tough time in the difficult economic situation: as we start a New Year, what are your views on its prospects in the next few years?

The glazing industry has indeed suffered with overall volumes and margins being squeezed, companies are struggling and some are entering into liquidation through no fault of their own as they are owed money by suppliers and contractors who have not paid up, while other companies have merged with others.

For those companies who are struggling during the current recession, it becomes more important than ever to ensure that corners are not being cut and customer service does not falter, as doing so will lead to customer dissatisfaction and an increased level of complaints.

It is difficult to predict what will happen in the next few years as the world economy and world financial markets are unstable. What is certain is that the next few years will continue to be a challenging proposition for Europe and all industries including our own.

During such uncertain challenging times, it is the ability of many companies who are leveraging the economic challenge presented to offer augmented products and services (e.g. offer green products such as Window or Door Energy Rated Products or higher spec products/services) or diversify into other product areas to increase revenue and competitive edge that enables them to not only survive the recession, but to stand out strongly from other businesses.

If we continue to experience cold weather in the UK, homeowners will be increasingly

looking to improve the thermal efficiency of their properties which our industry can benefit from by fulfilling this need with offering energy rated products.

Do you feel that the industry – as a result of current economics - may become leaner and fitter - benefit from a necessary “thinning out”?

Despite the current economics, I believe that there is still room for growth through the innovation of products and services within our relatively mature glazing market.

It is always very sad for any business

to have to fight for survival during the current economic climate, so the question concerning whether ‘thinning’ out is necessary should not be the focus.

Instead, I would rather consider how companies who find their margins being increasingly squeezed with increasing competition, could focus more on sales, marketing, customer service and improving the quality of their product/service to meet the economic challenge. It is probably not a good strategy to focus on price alone to increase sales as this could result in price wars (reducing overall margins for the industry) and may encourage companies to cut corners which will create customer dissatisfaction and subsequent complaints over the longer term.

The consequence of companies augmenting their products and services may indeed lead to a ‘fitter and leaner’ industry, but I certainly do not hope a ‘thinner’ one, as it is not good for any business to enter into liquidation. Companies need both help and encouragement to stay afloat.

What are your views on the efforts being made to improve the reputation and integrity of the industry by representative organisations such as TGO and others?

We operate in a democratic free market place where companies are free to develop products and services to better serve consumer needs.

32 « Clearview NMS « January 2012 « There will, therefore, always be a range

of different products and services available to meet the differing needs of consumers and installers. Genuine attempts made at improving the reputation and integrity of our industry can only be good for industry and consumers, and should be actively encouraged.

Do you consider that the public perception of such efforts is a good one? Are consumers impressed?

In general, public perceptions about hiring someone to undertake home improvements can be that it is quite a stressful experience, which is often met with hesitation over whether the builder/installer that they have signed the contract with will be able to carry out the work properly and to their satisfaction. Consumer thoughts also turn to the potentially devastating consequences should the work need to be undone, started afresh and redone to correct any unsafe, poor quality work.

Although many consumers are understandably worried about being taken advantage of by rogue traders, in practice, however, a report by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) found that double glazing and conservatory installers did not feature in the trades people complained about most of all.

Any attempts made by companies and

schemes to improve the standards and, subsequently, the reputation and integrity of the industry by representative organisations such as The Glazing Ombudsman (TGO), should be hugely welcomed by consumers.

As to whether consumers are impressed with such efforts, the important issue is that in the UK, there exists a range of different organisations through which consumers can have their complaints heard, disputes resolved and redress obtained. This can occur through trade associations/ schemes (such as GGF, SWA, CAB, BWF), Competent Persons Schemes such as FENSA), Ombudsman Schemes (e.g. TGO, TPO, FSA) or through consumer organisations that attempt to establish or

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