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Steve Meets Kevin Morgan, Group Commercial Director At Crystal Direct

Crystal Direct Group UK HQ in Letchworth

It's a brand new year and I'd like to introduce you to a series of interviews that I'll be conducting in 2022 with key players across the Home Improvement and Garden Industries. This week I have the pleasure of speaking with Kevin Morgan, Group Commercial Director for Crystal Direct, one of the UK's leading manufacturers of PVC-U windows, doors and conservatories.

We discuss how Crystal are disrupting the UK Window and Door Industry with exciting partnerships with B&Q, Screwfix and some of the leading merchants.

There's more on Crystal Direct here.

SC: It's been a roller-coaster year for suppliers, merchants and retailers within the Home Improvement Industry, do you think things are beginning to settle down?

KM: Yes in the main, I think things have returned to almost pre-pandemic volumes as consumers have gone through the vaccination programme and generally things are returning to normal.

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Kevin Morgan - Group Commercial Director At Crystal Direct Group Limited

You can connect with Kevin on LinkedIn here.

SC: Have there been any specific issues or challenges faced by businesses within the Fenestration industry?

KM: Yes, we had issues with raw materials and component suppliers, with resin, PVC-U profiles, steel hardware and glass, all experienced supply chain issues during 2021. Cost prices have risen sharply this year too compared to 2019 and 2020, but better availability of materials in the second half of 2021 has moderated the stream of price rises we saw earlier in the year, we also expect to see an end to additional surcharges early in 2022.

SC: It appears that the Pandemic has caused some structural shifts within the market, as the 'home visit/negotiate a deal' business models of Anglian, Everest and SafeStyle begin to faulter. Are you seeing similar shifts?

KM: Yes I think companies who had a strong presence online were the real winners during the pandemic, Digital sales were the driving force throughout the year, and as many retailers and merchants will agree, a mix of clicks and bricks is necessary to capture both audiences. Price transparency and virtual appointments have emerged as a replacement for the traditional and outdated ‘double glazing’ practices you describe. 

SC: What proportion of your overall sales are now digital?

KM: I would say almost 50% of our business now stems from online purchases via our customer base, and we expect this to grow as our brand becomes not just about B2C but B2B as well!

SC: What other trends are you seeing in the Doors & Windows market?

I think one of the well documented trends has been the boom in home improvements as people spend more time working from home wanting to create space and warmth as well as enhancing their home. I also think DIY has seen a renaissance particularly among the younger generations.

SC: It's interesting to see your recent initiative with B&Q. Can you tell me more about the relationship and the Crystal concessions that we're starting to see in warehouses like Milton Keynes?

KM: We have been supplying B&Q for over a decade and so the relationship is a strong one. I was really pleased to get involved with this new initiative, in short its about cutting through the smoke and mirrors that can exist within the made-to-measure window and door market. You can now visit a showroom within a B&Q location where you can touch and feel a selection of products and get fantastic help and advice from our experts. Price transparency, low leadtimes, and a fully guaranteed installation service are also available. We believe awareness of this fantastic service will increase with consumers throughout 2022 and I hope a showroom will be coming to a B&Q near you soon!

Watch a video of the Crystal Direct Showroom in B&Q Milton Keynes here.

SC: I understand you have a similar roll-out plan with Crystal Window & Door Centres in some leading merchants, can you tell us more about this?

KM: Yes, you are right, in essence this is a trade version of the B&Q showrooms. We now offer builders merchants three levels of support;, 2. in-branch and now 3. on-site. The CWCs are located within the merchants yard and also have a dedicated Crystal expert on hand to assist – this new solution is really easy to set up and is beneficial to those merchants who want to grow share without being ‘hands on’

SC: I've also seen a significant range of Crystal products for sale through, how does that relationship work, is it all drop-ship?

KM: Yes this goes from strength to strength and builds on our relationship with Kingfisher PLC. At the moment it's all drop ship – but watch this space as we work through 2022!

You can see the Crystal range on the Screwfix website here.

SC: With all these new customer initiatives, do you see Crystal as a disrupter?

KM: Yes I think the retail sector is ripe for disruption, there is still a stigma attached to double glazing selling which we want to remove. And with the trade too, in that we are creating the convenience of a ‘one stop shop’ with a number of merchants. We’ve always been a forward thinking company offering different solutions to our customer base, whether that is across bricks or clicks.

SC: What do you think is the size of the prize for established retailers and merchants who are considering entering this sector?

KM: The size of the industry is estimated at around £4 Billion – a similar size to kitchens, with some of the brands you mentioned earlier all generating £100m of sales each, so there is definitely room for brands such as B&Q to step in and take market-share. 

SC: What does 2022 and beyond look like for your business?

KM: We won’t be taking our foot off the gas! We have many established routes to market to grow and have some exciting plans for next year too! 

SC: You've recently mentioned that you think there may be a return to the Green Homes Scheme in 2022, but under a different name, do you know something we don't?

KM: This will be a massive opportunity for our sector in my view. I think with recent events such as COP26, Insulate Britain campaigns, and the government’s commitment to be carbon net zero by 2050, we are going to be hearing a lot about how we can make our homes more energy efficient. Energy Performance Certificates will become important as we move from band D or below to C and above. I expect to see many initiatives from both government and private sectors over the next few years. Single glazed and older PVCu windows and doors are likely to become viewed as a primary measure in terms of retro fits especially when coupled with non fossil fuel heating. Again both retail and trade could and should benefit from millions of projects being undertaken this decade.

Steve Collinge is an international speaker, influencer, retail commentator and is Managing Director of Insight Retail Group Ltd and executive editor of Insight DIY. You can follow Steve on LinkedIn here on and contact him via DM at any time. 

Source : Steve Collinge - LinkedIn

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06 January 2022

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