The lucrative PVC-U window and door market had always seemed to be tantalisingly out of reach for the merchant sector, but Crystal Direct claims that its approach has opened up unrivalled opportunities. PBM discusses its recent supply deal with NMBS, citing the success enjoyed by independent merchant Joseph Parr.
Like many other builders’ merchants, the Joseph Parr group of companies has had an uneasy relationship with PVC-U. The business — a group of three stand-alone merchants in the North East — had tried selling PVC-U windows in the past but, according to Managing Director Dave Anderson encountered suppliers with “high prices, long turnarounds and limited choice”.
In a reversal of fortune, Joseph Parr recently started buying PVC-U windows and doors from Crystal Direct — one of the UK’s leading trade manufacturers of PVC-U windows, doors and conservatories. Crystal became an NMBS supplier in 2014, claiming to offer merchants the chance to sell PVC-U windows and doors easily.
Dave Anderson said: “We received a flyer from NMBS about Crystal and I was impressed with what I read. It offers everything I need from a supplier and they ticked all the boxes: quick turnaround, quick quotations, good quality products and fantastic choice.”
Based in Hertfordshire, Crystal Direct was founded by its current Chairman, Martin Randall, in 1990. The firm’s customers span small installers to major house builders — and now many builders’ merchants too, as Martin explains: “Merchants aren’t making the most of the growing PVC-U market. It’s a £5bn plus market, and builders are buying lots of PVC-U windows and doors. But they’ve not been buying them from builders’ merchants.
“Crystal’s deal with NMBS makes it easy for merchants to sell PVC-U windows and doors to builders. There’s no need to stock anything — our speedy five-day turnaround on made-to-measure windows and doors and our free GPS tracked delivery makes it unnecessary.”
He continued: “This five-day service is also quicker than most of the window industry gets, and as we claim in our strapline, Crystal is number one for choice and number one for colour. So merchants can offer a wider range of windows, doors and conservatories in a wider range of colours than their national or local window competitors — and we help merchants sell, which gives them an advantage.”
Crystal’s ‘CESAR’ exhibition vehicle / mobile window showroom is cited as a prime example of the company’s commitment to helping merchants sell. It went on its first roadshow to Joseph Parr branches last November.
CESAR is a large window showroom plus a meeting room with full audio and visual facilities, designed to train merchants and make it easy for them to sell PVC-U windows. Complete with the supplier’s wide product range, the fully extendable mobile showroom has all of the company’s best-selling products and a wide choice of merchant marketing material. Support staff are also on hand to answer builders’ queries.
Around 40 of Joseph Parr’s builder customers saw Crystal’s windows and doors at the Stockton and Benton branches. Customers were said to be impressed with the quality of the products inside CESAR, and six orders were placed over the two day tour. Since the open day, Joseph Parr has seen sales of PVC-U windows and doors soar, with £120,000 worth of orders placed in the six weeks after the visit.
Dave Anderson says: “There’s definitely an untapped market for PVC-U windows and doors. We’ve seen interest grow since we started buying from Crystal and we’re getting new customers all the time. We didn’t sell PVC-U before, but now we sell lots.”
Crystal states that it’s free marketing and POS material includes brochures, flyers and leaflets that can be personalised for the builders’ merchant or their larger customers. NMBS members can also book CESAR for open days, product launches and customer initiatives, free of charge.
“The combination of great support and service from Crystal has helped us sell PVC-U,” says Dave. “We’ve had brochures, pop-up stands and window displays. We currently have point of sale displays in the showrooms, and we send posters to customers. The standard is excellent and the material is detailed and comprehensive. Quotations are turned around within a few hours and Crystal has sent field reps to the branches to help with staff training.”
Working closely with NMBS field reps, Crystal provides merchants with a personal service with its dedicated customer support teams able to turn around quotes and enquiries within 24 hours.
Crystal Group MD, Steve Halford, adds: “We make sure Crystal offers the best service and support to our customers. It’s a made-to-measure market, so long lead times and lack of effective marketing support and POS have previously put merchants off PVC-U. But our comprehensive merchant support package and the deal with NMBS have removed the barriers, so merchants can now sell to this attractive market.
“Our partnership with Joseph Parr shows how builders’ merchants can quickly and easily benefit by buying from Crystal and selling PVC-U windows and doors to builders.”