CPA members called it right – but what next for the economy?

Jeremy Brett
Windows Active talks to CPA Director Jeremy Brett about the Consumer Protection Association’s upcoming annual barometer; and the economy in general.

Having been in business for 21 years, the Consumer Protection Association has seen a number of changes, not just in the industry but in the country as a whole.

Four Prime Ministers and six world cups have passed; all of which promised much but ended up delivering little for the country. Each year has offered up different challenges, particular to that time and the period has also seen the UK economy battered by two major recessions.

It was the 2008 crash that prompted us to commission Insight Data to research and publish the industry’s biggest ever poll of installers; asking questions not just about products but sentiment surrounding the economy.

Over 12,000 installers were polled and the survey was sent out in September 2013.

Take the temperature

We wanted to find out what installers thought about the prospects for our industry and the country, going forward.

Despite there being a lack of confidence penetrating many sectors in the UK, including parts of the glazing sector – at the time of the survey being released – those polled were upbeat and overwhelmingly voted to say that they felt things would improve, confidence would return, order values and volumes would increase.

They called it right. CPA members and the majority of installers foresaw the improving conditions we are seeing today. 62.5 per cent said they believed sales would increase in 2014, compared to last year and 56 per cent said they felt the UK economy would improve.

The reality

This was their sentiment but what has been the reality? From talking with members there hunch wasn’t just correct about the economy as a whole, but for their businesses also.

Overwhelmingly our members are telling us that they are in a better position this year, compared to last, with sales and profits up and hiring intentions improving – there predictions have become correct.

But to nail down this data and find out projections for next year and beyond we will soon be releasing our next installer barometer. It will be interesting to see what this reveals and if optimism increases or decreases.

Still concerns

Because there are still some concerns about the economy, with some commentators stating that the upturn is being fuelled by more, cheap consumer credit and schemes that have injected life such as help to buy aren’t sustainable.

There are also concerns about housing shortages, employment contracts, our trade deficit, interest rates and the balance of power and production between the South East and the rest of the UK. We need to be sure we’re not just kicking a dented can a little further down the road.

And what would a change of government mean for the economy and our industry?

These are all questions we’ll be asking in our upcoming survey, that is going to be even more comprehensive and detailed.

Levers to pull

Here at the CPA we personally feel there are still levers that can be pulled in order to improve our industry and create more opportunities for installers.

For example we support a campaign to remove VAT on home improvement products. The economy has been jump started through building and construction but what about the home improvement market.

If you knock down a house and start again you don’t pay VAT but if you want to improve your home you do. For us this doesn’t make sense – how is this good for the environment and how does this work alongside government’s drive to improve the UK’s housing stock.

Let’s not forget that VAT is an invented tax and furthermore a removal of it on home improvement products would not only see an increase in work available for installers but also help to drive out the black market – because contractors will get more work, employ more people legally and therefore increase the tax take.

Nothing new

Ultimately we remain optimistic going forward. Mergers and acquisition activity in our industry underlines this thinking and despite the concerns about longevity the CPA is confident that the UK economy is out of the worst. But we are conscious that certain processes will never be the same again.

The consumer buying cycle is now more robust and the wow factor from installers is more important than ever and can’t be underestimated. Doing things as they have always been done is a risky strategy and teaming up the CPA, and utilising our 21 years of experience is one way of ensuring installers are one step ahead, shaky economy or not.