Steve Halford, Group Managing Director of Crystal, looks at the changing PVC-U windows market and how it can bring sales success to merchants.

Builders' merchants' sales of bespoke PVC-U windows and doors are growing at an extremely fast pace. It's a valuable £5 billion market and merchants have taken to it in a big way, seeing its potential and changing the way they sell as a result. A bespoke product that was once complicated to supply is now easy to sell, and brings with it the quality, choice and speed of service the market and their builder customers look for.

Whether it's for multi-plot developments, self-build or one-off extensions, builders can now buy a full range of bespoke and quality PVC-U windows and doors from their local branch in a wide choice of styles and colours. They can also meet a growing interest among their customers for conservatories, orangeries and solid roof conservatory-extensions and benefit from added value sales. Conservatories have been transformed from white boxes that were too hot to use in summer and too cold in winter. Now, energy efficient glass, roof lights and bi-folding or large sliding doors give homeowners the benefits of inside-outside living, bathed in light from above and the sides and comfortable to use all year round.

Showrooms make it easier for builders' merchants to engage with their builder and contractor customers and sell more. They are especially effective with high value home improvement products such as kitchens and bathrooms, but they create more engaging customer experiences for quality PVC-U windows and windows, too. Frequent product training at builder and merchant level, backed by the dismantling of the barriers to bespoke products, are also closing the skills gap. More builders are installing PVC-U windows and doors directly rather than subcontracting the work. Easy ordering via online configurations and deliveries on short lead times direct to the builder makes it easier still.

In an otherwise flattish PVC-U window market, builders' merchants' success has been outstanding. The industry is well down the path of transforming the bespoke PVC-U market for independent merchants, regional chains and large nationals. Although we're living in uncertain times with rising inflation and political unrest, this sector of the market is still young and in its fast growth stage.