Tuesday 15th December, 2009
Windows Active aims some pertinent questions at Mark Hanson, Marketing Manager at Ultraframe, about their recently launched Cornice and the Veranda conservatory previewed at Glassex.
What was the thinking behind both products - where did the idea originate from?
Inspiration for new products comes from various sources.
We have a very creative Design and Development Director in Andrew Thomson (ex-Dyson) who looks after the R&D effort, in particular the ‘big ideas’.
Furthermore, we undertake focus groups with consumers on a regular basis, feedback from which is set alongside that obtained directly from retailers. Feedback from both these audiences is used to shape new product development.
In addition, our technical support department – renowned throughout our industry – gains feedback every day from fitters, and we have a deep empathy with the guys on the tools. All of our tech support guys have migrated from hands on shop floor and site based roles . This type of feedback further feeds our evolutionary developments.
And finally, our presence in overseas markets – particularly the French market – also provides stimulus to the New Product Development (NPI) function.
Are your sales graphs showing that retailers/installers are selling more complex and unique designs?
On the one hand it’s difficult to generalize…..but lets generalize! Undoubtably – as the market matures and there are more second and third time buyers out there – the specification of conservatories is improving/increasing. There are far more glass roofs out there, many featuring the highest performing self cleaning glass. The specification of the bases and dwarf walls are also featuring higher levels of insulation and items like underfloor heating are increasingly featuring.
Styles like the Orangery ( and we hope the new Veranda) are further stretching the market into new directions where there is a blur between home extension and conservatory.
Having said all that, it does seem to be the mid-upper end retailers who are pushing these boundaries.
You firmly believe in the power of exhibitions – a great way for your customers to 'See and touch the product' – why was Glassex such a success for you?
Whilst we believe in exhibitions, it’s not a blind faith, come what may. Each year we review our objectives and look at what new products are at various stages in the ‘pipeline’.
One of the preferred methods for the communication of new products is through a personal visit from an account manager, equipped with samples and brochures. These techniques are fine (we rely on them a great deal) but some products need to be displayed on conservatories (Cornice) or as conservatories (Vernada), and one of the only places to do this is in the neutral space that is an exhibition hall.
We certainly got an overwhelming reception to both Cornice and Veranda – with the latter, it was only displayed as a concept, we were intending to round up feedback at the end of the show and then decide whether to put it into production. In reality, the response was so overwhelming after only half a day, that we said we had to put it into production.
And one other reason for our success at the show is that visitors get the chance to see any one of a multitude of staff at the show – each and every day we had 15 staff working on the stand none stop, representing technical support, training, sales and marketing. A customer or prospect can talk to wide cross section of functional staff, and its all wrapped up in less than an hour, so its very convenient for the visitor who minimizes the downtime away from the office.
When will these products come to market?
The aluminium Cornice – which wraps around the existing pvc gutter to creat a new look and feel – has been on the market since May. It has had some success but we are set to see sales treble as a result of customers now ‘getting’ Cornice, having seen it in context on a full painted conservatory at Glassex. One other important consideration in the strong response at Glassex was the debuting alongside Cornice of a new decorative pillar, which again adds the look of strength and integrity that is being sought today by high end consumers.
The Veranda product is due to be available in the first quarter of next year.
Have you noticed any trends in interest from particular customer groups?
Not from particular customer groups, No. We have noticed a lot of interest in the products which give retailers a differentiated product. Higher end retailers are continually hungry for something new and different, and that is one of the main drivers for the product development that is undertaken at Ultraframe.
What are the installation procedures with both products - any specialist skills/training needed?
When introducing new products, Ultraframe has always attempted to make their installation as simple as possible. Having said that, Ultraframe has invested and continues to invest in training its customers and Ultra Installers with around 1000 companies per year taking advantage of this facility.
And finally, how are you assessing next years Glassex?
The response and feedback we got from visitors was overwhelming – they want a Glassex, they want it in its own hall (but within Interbuild is fine) and they want to see it succeed. So – on that basis – Ultraframe has re-booked for next year. Ultraframe hopes that by declaring early that it is going, it will help to attract other ‘flagship’ brands into the show, enhancing the overall visitor experience.
Ultraframe deliver innovative and top quality conservatory roof systems for the trade which suit all styles, all applications, all consumer types and which offer excellent value for money.
The market leading company invests heavily in research and development to provide the most technologically advanced and stylish conservatory roofing solutions, maximising light and space. Ultraframe are at the forefront of conservatory design and its systems are mainly used in the home improvement sector but also in new housing and commercial applications in the UK and Europe.
In 2006 the privately owned Latium Group, which has many interests within the glass & glazing and home improvement markets acquired Ultraframe. The Latium Group is owned by entrepreneur Brian Kennedy.
For further media information:
Ultraframe (UK) Ltd