There have been many positive and negative, happy and sad articles and reports over the last 6 months or so as the whole world got to grips with the devastating effects of a global pandemic. Selecta Systems Sales Director, Andy Green, speaks about how Selecta have coped during this time as they become one of the industries success stories of this extraordinary year as they see exceptional demand for products soar to record levels.
What a strange year 2020 has been! We started the year with optimism and confidence on the back of an excellent 2019, where 46 new fabricators were converted to or started fabricating our Advance 70 System. In January we saw a 25% increase on 2019 figures, with February and March producing similar increases in sales on the previous year. We were then to shut down for a total of 6 weeks, as the majority of our industry did too, at the end of March before a phased return to work began on the 11th May.
I duly believe that there’s not a single person in our industry who could have predicted, planned for or been able to forecast events prior to or post lockdown. Demand from an increased number of at home on-line shoppers certainly caught everyone within our industry by surprise as the home improvement market boomed. With orders stacking up, Selecta returned to work with demand for our products at a level never seen before. Within a couple of weeks everyone was safely inducted back to work from furlough and working at full speed.
Whilst handling that initial demand was logistically tough, as it pushed production, supply and transport to its limits, it did however allow ourselves to bring forward and fast-track our planned programme for growth. Plans were already in place for expansion and investment with another 27 small, medium and large fabricators already converting to our Advance 70 System so far during 2020.
The sales surge from existing customers and the recent influx of new customers joining Selecta, saw sales increase by almost 50% in June, 42% in July and 36% in August, compared with the same periods for 2019. At the time of writing, September is showing no sign of slowing down either! We are currently forecasting a sales increase of between 40 and 45% for September compared with 2019 figures. To keep up with this demand and increase our capacity further, we have added extra shifts to our warehouse, distribution and profile foiling departments. Coloured profiles are now contributing to approximately 50% of all profile sales and continue to grow. We have also increased the delivery capabilities and capacity of our fleet of HGV delivery vehicles to ensure that transportation of our goods remains efficient and effective. A recruitment drive has also seen our staffing levels increase by 9.5%, with further plans to increase resources within other areas of the business over the coming few months.
Lead times across the industry supply chain have primarily been affected by the home improvement boom, where there has been a lot of talk regarding this circulating within the industry press. Selecta have experienced similar issues to many others across the window and door supply chain. In fact, we’ve just been informed that raw material supplies and coloured profile foil may be affected by the recent high demand, with no ‘extra’ deliveries outside of any arranged purchases and possible outages of Anthracite Grey foil stock widely predicted. These are issues that are going to affect the whole supply chain as the suppliers of these materials are commonly used by the majority of the industry supply chain. Being up front and honest in explaining these potential issues is of major importance at the moment, to help each other plan and move forward together.
We have continued to be transparent and up-front with our customer base with longer lead times for certain products than previous, hence the growth plan investments being brought forward backed up by the tremendous hard work and dedication of the Selecta team. However, there are times where the best laid out plans cannot alleviate conditions outside of our own control.
Personally, I would like to thank all our customers for their patience, understanding and co-operation during these times of exponential growth. Their response to the current situation has been endearing and they have shown a tremendous amount of compassion and support. Similar thanks go to our team here at Selecta, with many going above and beyond to ensure that we continue to build and maintain excellent relationships with new and existing customers. We are in a very fortunate position to be experiencing the higher volumes than expected, but that also has a lot to do with the quality of our products and the conscientious, meticulous and hardworking nature of the team here at Selecta. We were experiencing excellent growth prior to the lockdown and the home improvement boom and so to hit the levels we are currently at is exceptionally pleasing, at a time, where we hear so much negativity from the mainstream media.
Moving forward we have further exciting expansion and growth plans afoot to build upon and extend our production and storage capacity and capabilities. I’m sure we are not the only one who’s, as the saying goes, ‘making hay whilst the sun shines’, but we all still need to be cautious as we move in to 2021. I’m confident that whatever 2021 throws at our industry, that Selecta have a business model and structure that provides long-term stability and continuity, mostly owing to independent ownership and a business model that ensures that. We are looking beyond what is looking like being an exceptional and unpredicted 2020, whilst prudently having one eye on how the industry will develop.