Nottingham-based home improvement specialist Glazedale is bringing a much-needed fresh approach to an industry that’s been fighting against the ‘persistent double-glazing salesman’ stigma for far too long…
A visit to Glazedale’s headquarters in Langley Mill reveals a sleek exterior with a well thought out and welcoming showroom inside. Husband and wife team Darren and Claudia Shelbourn are the brains behind the operation, which focuses mainly on bespoke, high-end installations for homeowners.
Darren started out as an industry apprentice in 1988 before setting up on his own in 1991. From a humble start in his home office, he soon took the plunge to rent a workshop in Heanor, where the business started to flourish. In 2006, the couple bought the site of an old petrol station, where they built 6 connected units. Renting out some of the space to other local firms with complementary offerings such as home furnishing, lighting, kitchens and carpets, they were able to open the Glazedale showroom, giving them the opportunity to showcase the whole product range
The arrangement works really well, as the companies within the complex can often end up referring homeowners to each other when home improvement projects are undertaken.
Darren Shelbourn, Glazedale’s owner and MD explains:
“We used to buy in many of the windows when we first started out, just making the bespoke frames ourselves – but as the business grew, we were being asked more and more for bespoke installations. It made sense to rent a factory and move into making all our own products so that we could control the quality ourselves.
“We looked around and decided to go with Liniar profiles, due to their energy efficient and fabricator-friendly design, and we haven’t looked back since. We find many homeowners and self-builders want something a bit different to the norm, and we’re able to supply that; with everything fully matching and a systems company that is constantly designing new products.”
A 21st century firm
Glazedale is one of the few window fabricators that has really embraced social media as a marketing channel. Darren joined Twitter around 4 years ago and is using it to great success – not only building relationships with local contacts, but more importantly, generating real business.
“When I first joined Twitter, it felt like I was constantly using it,” says Darren, as Claudia nods in wry agreement.“But I knew I needed to spend time building up my followers, so I started following lots of people and tweeting interesting stuff, which gradually started to pay off. We now have over 3,500 followers, so I don’t need to spend as much time tweeting, although I still try to post at least three times most days.”
“I don’t use Twitter to ‘sell’ online, as people don’t want that. Instead, I try to engage with people, show the human side of the business and help them by answering queries wherever possible.
“Since then, we’ve built up our Facebook page, which now has almost 800 ‘fans’ – we find that’s a great way to showcase our installation images and demonstrate the quality of our work.
We decided to go with Liniar profiles, due to their energy efficient and fabricator-friendly design, and we haven’t looked back since
“The reason I like Twitter is that it’s a comfortable, relaxed way of networking. You’re not restricted either, unlike at a face to face event where there’s a limited amount of people in the room and you can get tied down talking to one person for too long.”
“We find it makes us stand out, as not many of our competitors are ‘doing’ social media – or certainly not very well – and it definitely helps to erase the image people used to have of the pushy double-glazing salesman.
“As well as raising the profile of Glazedale in the local area, social media has actually generated orders, with add-on work where we’ve subsequently been recommended to neighbours and also gone back for repeat business.”
Bringing Claudia into Glazedale in 2006 has also been rewarding, as having a female perspective brings in new ideas as well as helping to smash the stereotype even further. Claudia is clearly passionate about the business and helps to keep it moving forward.
“We work well together both at work and at home,” Claudia comments, “which is essential to a successful partnership.We also have a growing team of 21, with a nice mix of young and more experienced staff, all of whom really want the business to succeed.”
Looking around the Glazedale showroom, it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into presenting the product range at its best. Starting with the Liniar doormat at the door, customers can walk around and handle the windows, doors, bi-fold, patio and conservatories to experience for themselves the high quality on offer. Colour options are displayed on a Liniar colour display board and the place has a welcoming, non-pushy feel.
Even though the Shelbourns have plans to change a few things and add more products, the clean, bright open space, product zones and literature displays add up to a great customer experience.The firm is currently trialling Sunday opening, for just 3 hours each week, and have been surprised at the volume of passing trade, with customers just popping in for a look – already leading to orders.
So what’s next on the agenda for Glazedale?
“We’d like to move the factory a bit closer to the showroom,” says Claudia, “as we do spend a lot of time going back and forth between the two sites. We’re on the lookout for somewhere to buy as we speak.”
“We’re also looking at expanding into a larger area.” comments Darren, “We’d like to limit it to around an hour’s travelling time, but that opens up several options for us, so we’re planning to start advertising in glossy magazines closer to those areas – as well as, of course, finding new people to follow on Twitter!”
With this forward thinking outlook, Glazedale looks set to beat even its own targets!