An insight into trends, technology and tactics is given by John Crittenden, Managing Director of the Hardware Distributor
Q: What have been Carl F Groupco’s main successes, and challenges, of the past year?
A: Since launching our electronic door locking and access control brand, SmartSecure, in 2016 we have seen a 90% increase in sales year on year. It was a bold move and a massive investment but it is reaping rewards. Early adopters of Smart Tech range from the aspirational residential market to Housing Associations and sheltered housing installations … it is a solution that is popular across all sectors. The success of SmartSecure during the past year has been aided by one of our customers, Grabex Windows, featuring the FUHR 881 fully motorised multipoint door lock on its stand at the 2018 Grand Designs Live London event: our fingerprint and remote key fob access control options were displayed on Grabex’s timber door.
Another significant success for us has been the achievements of our PN-Roto technical team who liaised with Liniar providing hardware advice and development input for a new range of reversible windows which are ideally suited to high rise applications. Our staff were involved in the development project from start to finish and it resulted in Carl F Groupco being selected as a hardware supplier and we will be selling the established PN by Roto Uni Hinge and Roto TSL Espagnolette fitting options directly to Liniar’s customers.
One of our ongoing challenges is stock management – if we haven’t got stock we can’t maintain our high standards of delivery. We offer over 7,000 lines and orders are often ad-hoc / contract led - this means a frequent requirement to supply a wide number of options in varying sizes. And colour profiles are growing in popularity which also means we need to stock more variants. But it is a challenge that we rise to on a daily basis: we have become very good at predicting industry trends. The bar that we set for ourselves is very high for On Time In Full (OTIF) deliveries – we frequently achieve 98% and we measure this on the basis of complete orders … rapid despatch is no good if you have bought a tilt and turn set and only receive 14 out of 15 parts.
Q: What have been this year’s hot topics for hardware?
A: Smart Tech, as previously mentioned, and automatic locking (the FUHR 833) have been hot topics. Sales of the Yale Conexis, which can be a DIY after fit, are also growing so all three levels of the Smart lock market are increasing – the retrofit, the mechanical 833 and the “all singing all dancing” locking and access control solution. Other buzz subjects have included high security hardware and growing demand for high-end aluminium products. Fire doors have also been a strong feature with the Grenfell tragedy having widespread repercussions – it has had major impact on industry standards for fire regulations and shown how important testing is. The disaster has shown it is essential to use the right product for the application with correct installation. I feel strongly that our industry must have input into all relevant Government enquiries.
Q: Looking to the future, what products do you predict will be the big sellers of 2019? And what is Carl F Groupco’s strategy for growth?
A: The most popular products for the coming year are set to be the more specialist lines like hardware for the new Liniar window that I’ve mentioned, fire rated fittings and high specification aluminium door locks. With regards to Carl F Groupco’s strategy for growth, we will increase investment in our customer service teams and continue to work closely with our manufacturing partners. We will also maintain our focus on offering exceptional service.
Q: Are there any changes to legislation, regulations or standards that will impact the hardware sector in the year ahead?
A: The answer to this question unavoidably has to link to Brexit. In reality, I believe we will mirror European standards. The bigger issue is what the new bureaucracy is going to be and the impact on logistics i.e. getting the products, delivering them and the associated paperwork. We are already talking to our European based suppliers about how we manage the situation in the short term and we will be building buffer stocks in case there are logistical problems.
Q: If you were to sum up Carl F Groupco’s brand values, what would these be?
A: Customer service is at the heart of our brand including reliability, durable products, a responsive team and ability to offer solutions. Carl F Groupco is about products, delivery and people.