COVID-19 quickly impacted demand in the new build sector, as well as supply in the replacement sector, causing a 14.2% decline in sales to the new build and contractor-led home improvement market and a slightly lower reduction of 10.8% in the direct sell replacement market. Generally, the markets recovered strongly in the second half of 2020, with the latter sector reporting a benefit from pent-up demand.

However, there are long-term implications from the pandemic that are expected to be positive. New build demand, already on a long-term upward trend, could be enhanced as existing commercial buildings are repurposed to residential accommodation, and existing homes may be encouraged to extend to accommodate working space, with remote working propelled as a practice.

The important direct sell market is dependent on a complex mix of market influencers, many of which relate to consumer confidence and the ability and willingness of householders to invest in their properties. Interest rates are at record low levels but must be expected to increase, making investments more expensive, while replacement windows do not offer the lifestyle gains seen to be achieved with competing improvements such as bathrooms and kitchens.

While the direct sell market is largely mature, though subject to annual fluctuations because of the varied influences on demand, the new build sector has been and will continue to be very buoyant. The remaining contractor market is now getting a boost as the growth in remote working encourages people to extend their property to accommodate new demands on space.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • How COVID-19 caused major demand changes in both the replacement and new build markets following Brexit, resulting in pent-up demand in the latter stages of 2020/early 2021.

  • How the industry has faced material shortages following temporary factory closures and the bulge in demand directly resulting from the pandemic.

  • How the market is expected to develop after the short-term impact of high levels of house moving, home improvement activity and the escalation of house price inflation.

  • How the market segments between frame materials.

  • How the market segments between new build and the important replacement sector.

COVID-19: market context

The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the UK at the end of January 2020, with a small number of cases in February. Rapidly rising case numbers led to the first national lockdown, starting on 23 March. It wasn't until 15 June that non-essential stores were allowed to reopen, followed by pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers on 4 July and many beauty businesses on 13 July.

By September, it had become clear that the UK was at the start of a second wave, and social distancing measures were intensified. Continued increases in infection numbers led to Wales implementing a two-week national lockdown from 19 October, England announcing a month-long lockdown from 5 November and Scotland introducing a new five-level system of coronavirus restrictions.

Despite these restrictions, however, case numbers continued to increase. All four UK nations tightened restrictions further in January 2021, effectively leading to a full UK-wide lockdown.

On 22 February, Boris Johnson announced the roadmap to an easing of restrictions in England, starting with the reopening of schools on 8 March, followed by easing of restrictions on outdoor gatherings on 29 March, and with a hoped end to all restrictions by 21 June. The Welsh and Scottish governments also gave more details on their plans to ease restrictions, with both nations taking a slightly more cautious approach to the one planned for England. The June schedule has now been brought into question with the upturn in the number of cases, largely attributed to the ‘Indian’ variant.

The UK’s vaccination programme started on 8 December 2020, and with the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines licensed for use in the UK, the government aimed to offer a first dose of the vaccine to 32 million people by mid-April. By 2 June, it had given a first dose to almost 39.8 million adults (75.5% of the adult population) and a second dose to 26.4 million people (50.2% of the adult population).

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s central scenario included in its March 2021 Economic and Fiscal Outlook Report. After the fall of 9.9% over the course of 2020, the scenario suggests that UK GDP will grow by 4% in 2021 and 7.3% in 2022.

GDP isn’t expected to return to pre-COVID-19 levels until the second quarter of 2022, although this is six months earlier than the OBR forecast in November 2020, mainly because of the faster than expected rollout of vaccines.

Unemployment is expected to peak at 6.5% in the fourth quarter of 2021. As with GDP, this is more positive than the OBR’s November forecast, but the OBR does raise the prospect of long-term scarring on employment, especially in the more exposed retail and hospitality sectors.

Social distancing measures have been progressively eased since April 2021. Nonetheless, the government guidelines as of June remain that employees should work from home if possible, though the ultimate decision now rests with employers.

Products covered in this Report

For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions.

This Report covers the UK market for double and secondary glazing. Triple glazing is also included but remains a small sector of the market. Double glazing normally involves the removal and replacement of existing windows and frames, while secondary glazing can usually be fitted to existing frames. Due to the nature of supply it is not possible to eliminate installation charges.

Sales to the building trade and commercial, industrial public non-residential sectors are excluded.

There are a variety of materials used in the construction of window and door frames. Traditional timber still dominates the new installation market, while the use of steel window frames is largely out of fashion but is more widely used outside of the residential sector. PVC-u is widely used in the retro-fit double glazing sector and aluminium has also retained a significant role in this sector. In the latter case, much of the total market is again accounted for by commercial applications, especially retail properties.

This report looks at both the direct sell and builders/contract sector.

The direct sell sector includes all companies who offer windows and (other products) directly to the public on a sell and install basis, including door to door, retailers, garden centres and showrooms. These companies have traditionally been known as ‘double glazing’ or replacement windows’ companies. The windows and doors are normally for replacement, although some first-time installation is also carried out. The selling tends to be on a local basis, or as the name suggests door to door or through a local showroom.

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