Opening up the PVC-U windows & door market for merchants

Opening up the PVC-U windows & door market for merchants

Crystal Direct Chairman Martin Randall and Group MD Steve Halford believe they have made it easy for builders’ merchants to sell made-to-measure PVC-U windows & doors. PBM finds out more.

In his position as Chairman of one of the UK’s leading trade manufacturers of PVC-U windows, doors and conservatories, Martin Randall appears to be a man on a mission. “It’s always seemed crazy to me that merchants missed out on PVC-U windows,” he comments. “It’s a £5bn plus market and builders are buying a lot of PVC-U windows and doors — but they’ve not been buying them from builders’ merchants. Last year my Group MD Steve Halford and I decided to make it easy for merchants to get their fair share, and this year Crystal became an NMBS supplier.”

Founded in 1990 by Martin Randall himself, Crystal Direct is based in Hertfordshire, close to the motorway network. He says Crystal’s customers span small installers to major housebuilders — and now many builders’ merchants too. 

Martin says: “Given the immediate response from merchants this year, Crystal is planning to add significant capacity in 2015. 30 years ago, I started out as an installer working for a window company that specialised in commercial fitting, before setting up on my own as a domestic installer. The business grew quickly, but the biggest problem I had was finding a trade fabricator that could produce the reliable frames I wanted.

“I was frustrated by the lack of choice, quality and service on offer, and decided to do something about it.” Martin chose to concentrate on fabrication for the trade, providing the best quality products and the widest product choice to his customers.

The company has consistently invested in the latest machinery. For instance, a Stuga Flowline cutting and machining centre, two Rotox CNC corner cleaners, two new Quad welders and another high speed Cutting and Machining Centre have recently been acquired. The new machinery improves productivity while maintaining the highest quality.

Currently, CE Marking is proving to be a potential headache for builders with a lot of confusion about new legislation. According to Crystal, the position is actually quite clear. For a builder buying frames and sealed units from different suppliers, CE Marking is his responsibility. However, builders buying the company’s complete ready-glazed windows and doors are automatically CE Marking compliant.

Steve Halford, Group Managing Director, explains: “Our commitment to continually improve what we do and how we do it means our customers can sell to their customers with confidence, knowing they won’t have long delays or expensive call-backs because of problems with quality. Crystal provides the best possible service and support to our customers, but that service is built on a strong foundation of manufacturing excellence.” 


The business currently offers A and C energy rated windows, vertical sliders, reverse butt-welded or mechanically jointed frames, composite doors, bi-fold doors and a choice of conservatory roofs. It claims to be the leading trade fabricator for choice and colour, whilst also has a commitment to adding new products to enable its customers to capitalise on emerging markets.

From this foundation, Martin and Steve say that builders have now enthusiastically adopted PVC-U — with the material now having around 80% of the market. They say that merchants now have the opportunity to benefit too, with the firm’s deal with NMBS making it even easier for merchants to sell PVC-U windows and doors to builders.

There’s no need to stock them; Crystal offers a speedy 5 day turnaround on made-to-measure windows and doors. Furthermore, marketing and POS material is available to help merchants sell the products. This includes brochures, flyers and leaflets that can be personalised to the builders’ merchant or their large customers, and free POS. Crystal also offers merchants the opportunity to book ‘CESAR’ — the Crystal Exhibition Showroom And Representation vehicle.

Working closely with NMBS field reps, the company says it provides merchants with a personal service including a dedicated hotline. Its customer services teams are set up to turn around quotes and enquiries within 24 hours and the online ordering system lets customers order and check the progress of orders at any time.

Steve concludes: “Customer service is at the heart of what we do, and Crystal is committed to helping merchants make the most of this significant opportunity.”

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