Rising demand, late payments and sustainability in procurement

Roof repair, worker with white gloves replacing gray tiles or shingles on house with blue sky as background and copy space, Roofing - construction worker standing on a roof covering it with tiles.
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The State of Roofing Industry survey for Q4 2023 from the NFRC and Glenigan highlights key issues for the sector

The NFRC (National Federation of Roofing Contractors) is the UK’s largest trade association for the roofing industry with over 1,200 members, representing the entire roofing supply chain from contractors to merchants to manufacturers.

Its State of the Roofing Industry member survey for Q4 of 2023 highlights key statistics and issues facing the sector.

The overall picture: Workloads and employment levels on the rise

Overall, 27% of roofing contractors reported a rise in workloads compared with the previous quarter, against 12% reporting a decline.

Workloads were also higher than Q4 2022, with 37% of firms reporting an increase against 17% seeing a decline.

Enquiries continued to decline slightly during the third quarter, with 32% of firms reporting a fall against 24% reporting an increase. This points to a potential softening of workloads over the coming months.

Enquiries were also down year-on-year, with 35% of firms reporting a fall against 20% reporting an increase.

Employment levels rose during the quarter, with 19% of firms increasing their direct headcount against the previous quarter compared to 11% reporting a decline.

Use of subcontracted labour grew, with 26% of firms using more and 16% decreasing their use of subcontractors.

Call to end late payment

Overdue payment continues to feature highly as a key concern. In fact, less than a third of respondents are paid within 30-day terms, with the figures only slightly better for those on longer terms. This has proven a consistent trend ever since the survey started.

NFRC chief executive James Talman said: “We are supportive of the government’s statutory reporting duty on Business Payment Practices and its impending update, along with the associated league tables published by Build UK.

“However, these measures are not improving the fortunes of the majority of our members, who also face ongoing higher labour costs. The knock-on impact for SMEs, micro-businesses and the self-employed is too often ignored in favour of others who are a strategic risk if not paid within terms.”

Continuity of public pipeline

A rise in workload and demand for labour signals a continuing optimistic outlook, bucking the trend of many other sectors in the current economic climate.

The survey’s positive outlook hinges on the “refurbishment of non-domestic public works” as a key marker. Although to enable members to invest in skills and innovation for the longer term, this pipeline must extend beyond 2025 with full government commitment. The Spring Budget’s lack of additional public sector funding for construction-related areas is likely to disappoint industry stakeholders.

Stimulus to the private sector

Allan Wilen, Glenigan’s economic director, said: “Roofing contractors’ workload continued to improve during the final quarter of 2023, with commercial and domestic repair, maintenance and improvement particular bright spots.”

Despite signs of a slight improvement in the commercial sector’s prospects, albeit from a low base, new housebuilding is a major cause for concern for the substantial number of members serving this sector.

However, there is reported optimism that economic indicators will start to improve the outlook, a sentiment anticipated to manifest in the next survey.

Employment opportunities

There is also positive news with regard to continuing employment opportunities across both pitched and flat roofing. Efforts to enhance the sector’s image are evident in the professionalism demonstrated by members. This work is crucial not only to ensure retirees are replaced but also for the additional skills required in areas such as solar PV, rainwater management and living (green) roofs.

Sustainability in procurement

When asked how sustainability is featured in procurement considerations, the survey highlighted a disparity between rhetoric and reality. There seems to be a lack of a cohesive approach among members’ clients concerning common needs. The NFRC aims to help drive consensus on what is practical and beneficial to all parties.

Concluding the survey’s findings, James Talman said: “I trust the conclusions from this latest survey will add to the overall understanding of this vital sector to the UK construction market and help form collective opinion. Thank you to all our members who participated, and the NFRC team and those at Glenigan for pulling it all together.”

You can read a summary of the report here.


National Federation of Roofing Contractors

Tel: +44 (0)20 7638 7663







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