Agility is key to growing your business, believes Mark Herbert, Joint Managing Director of Mackenzie Glass. We report.

The glass industry should be less worried about volumes, and more concerned with getting their product offer right to make the most of the opportunities when they arrive, believes Mark Herbert, Joint Managing Director of Bristol-based glass merchant Mackenzie Glass.

“The first half of January is always slow,” he says. “But nothing is grinding to a halt. I think what is more interesting is analysing what people are buying, and how that reflects the changing demands we are seeing in the wider market.”

Underpinning these changing trends, Mark believes, is the quiet housing market. With fewer people moving home, more people are renovating the properties they are living in.

“Antique mirror is very popular, and our customers who supply the domestic market are ordering that in greater quantities than ever before,” he says. “I think homeowners are paying closer attention to what they see around them when they visit hotels and restaurants, and they try to recreate that look at home.

“We are also seeing increased orders for other types of mirrored glass (such as coloured), glass for balustrades, and printed splashbacks.

“I think the key thing to realise is that if you partner with us, you can react quickly to market demands because you don’t have to try to predict which products are going to be popular. You can rely on the fact that Mackenzies is always sourcing new glass products from around the world so that demanding requirements can be met.”

Mackenzie Glass cuts specialist glass to size, and delivers orders to site in any quantity. This puts its customers at an advantage, Mark says, because not only do they have access to high value work with potentially high margins, but they don’t have to invest in stock that may sit unused in racks for months at a time.

“It means that glass companies can order according to demand, and not have to risk buying in valuable stock which ties up cash,” Mark says. “This is particularly key today because we are seeing trends change as people’s circumstances change.”

Mark points out that Mackenzies is often referred to as a supermarket for glass, which highlights the focus the company has on stocking glass that companies require, and in being able to provide a wide choice.

“In addition to quantity and quality, we are also obsessed with variety,” Mark says, “and we’ve had considerable success in supplying specialist glass that has been unavailable elsewhere. This could simply be unusual thicknesses, but it could also extend to such as products as decorative, etched, multi-coloured mirrors, antique silvers, heat and fire-resistant products, and bespoke restoration glasses.

“We make it our duty to seek out the specialist glass, which our customers’ competitors will not have access to, thus giving them a commercial advantage.”

This is coupled with ongoing reinvestment in the business, making sure the processing equipment is up to date, and that the fleet is among the most modern on the roads. Since the Cornwall Group acquired Mackenzies from Pilkington in 2017, it has spent almost £2m in vehicles and machinery, including a new fire saw to handle the increased demand for specialist laminate glass, such as fire glass.

“This is another area where we’ve seen an uptick in demand,” Mark says. “Commercial work is picking up pace, and we are seeing an increased requirement for laminate glass for shopfronts. Again, we are investing in our product range and capabilities so that we can offer a valuable niche service to our customers.

“It also means that valuable commercial opportunities to are available to those smaller glass companies who wouldn’t be able to invest in the machinery and stock themselves.”

It is this kind of flexibility that will put glass companies on a competitive footing throughout 2024 and beyond, Mark argues.

“Some companies are reluctant to invest because there is so much uncertainty at the moment,” Mark says. “The cost of borrowing is still high, and the unstable political situation in Ukraine and the Middle East is having a noticeable effect on the movement of goods – including glass – around the globe.

“If you are a small company, how do you know that the machinery you invest in, and the glass that you stock, will be the right choices?

“Fortunately, Mackenzies’ business model is built solely on providing that choice, in quantities that is required, so that our customers can remain agile enough to move with market demands.”

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