John Crittenden, Managing Director of hardware distributor Carl F Groupco takes a look back at 2020 and gives some predictions for 2021.
Without doubt, the difficulties that have been faced industry wide with stock and supply - combined with issues of ‘corona proofing’ the working environment and furlough, made 2020 probably the most challenging year ever for the industry.
However, against the bleak backdrop of 2020, at Carl F Groupco there were a number of silver linings to the clouds that over shadowed us. First and foremost we have a phenomenal team of people at our Peterborough and Cumbernauld distribution centres including our Sales Managers ‘on the road’… I talk about our workforce a lot, and quite rightly, because our staff willingly step into the breach doing their utmost to fulfil supply commitments.
Maintaining deliveries has been particularly challenging with sales going through the roof and supply chain difficulties. It is hard to pin-point exactly why sales have soared: this is possibly bounce back from pent-up demand, some stock-piling or people having spare cash to spend but, for whatever reason, we are experiencing peak orders.
Adopting a fair supply policy has been our way forward… we liaise with customers to share product to keep everyone supported as efficiently as possible. This ensures an equitable approach for customers but it does increase our work load liaising with buyers and suppliers to balance demand. Our focus is keeping our customers in production but it’s no secret that pressures on the supply chain are beyond everyone’s control.
With regards to popular product lines it’s hard to pinpoint any particular range or type of hardware as being most in demand – if it’s not too sweeping a statement, everyone is buying everything!
As we look to the year ahead, aluminium products have been particularly popular and are set to continue to be sought after. With an aspirational desire for high end products from a progressive and affluent sector of the residential market, demand for aluminium products has grown. No longer is aluminium limited to functional school and office applications, it has become de rigueur for domestic use and we have invested in developing a full range of aluminium fittings.
Looking ahead to 2021, we predict continued growth in demand for SmartSecure, our electronic door locking and access control technology. When some level of normality returns and we have our new world hopefully with an effective vaccine, care homes and sheltered housing organisations will need access control more than ever to support track and trace initiatives.
We are also set to see an ongoing increase in orders for hardware that supports fire doors. There is strong emphasis currently on fine-tuning specifications and supporting hardware will therefore be in demand such as FUHR and Strand’s ranges of panic door gearing and the fire rated letter plates that we supply.
It’s useful to also name-check Carl F direct our direct mail and e-commerce business which offers a broad range of tools and site equipment as this will continue to operate alongside our hardware distribution operation and support our supply services.
Flexible and Focussed
With regards to our infrastructure and support services, we will continue to invest in 2021. Our web site will be updated and, to support our customers who rely on a printed version of our catalogue, an updated version of our one-stop product reference source will be produced and that’s no mean feat as we supply over 7,000 product options.
And, with a constant eye on the importance of product availability, we are implementing a 25% increase in stock to prepare for the impact of Brexit at both our Peterborough and Cumbernauld warehouses.
You can rest assured that we are committed and focussed on maintaining supply and supporting our customers through the challenges that the industry is set to continue to face in the year ahead. We wish everyone a successful and safe New Year.