David Hopkins, CEO of Timber Development UK, says the future looks bright for the timber industry in 2022.
For two years, in the shadow of the pandemic, global shipping issues, and customs changes post-Brexit, merchants have understandably been firefighting when it comes to sourcing timber products.
The turbulent market during 2021 meant merchants were having to source timber wherever they could find it, prompting a year of near-record timber imports into the UK.
Our latest statistics show that the volume of timber imported between January and October 2021 was 28% higher than for the same period in 2020 – reaching a total of 10.3 million m3 for that year to date.
This was combined with significantly higher demand across the UK, with Builders Merchant Building Index figures showing Timber and Joinery product sales were up more than 50% in August 2021 when compared to the previous year.
As we start 2022, it does seem that this turbulence is beginning to calm. Timber import patterns showed a 16% fall in volumes in October 2021, marking an end to 15 months of continual growth in UK imports of timber and panel products.
Softwood import volumes also reflected these changes, with just 557,000m3 entering the UK in October 2021 – very close to the typical average volumes of softwood imports seen between 2015 to 2018 (559,000m3).
After such a turbulent and challenging few years for the sector, it’s good to see the waters beginning to settle, even if uncertainties do still lie ahead, particularly with shipping costs still rising, continued HGV driver shortages, and the recent changes to UK customs requirements for some imported products.
Now that the immediate supply pressures have lessened, many timber and builders’ merchants have now been able to replenish their timber stocks to pre-pandemic levels, giving them a little more space to reassess their needs for the year ahead.
Timber shortages hit the national headlines last year specifically because timber is such a vital part of the construction industry. As a material it is highly sustainable and offers tangible solutions to the UK’s carbon emission reduction targets, as well as being flexible and versatile for builders and developers, regardless of the size and scale of the projects they work on.
If you are looking to grow your business through 2022, you should seriously consider increasing the amount of timber and its associated products that you sell. After all, you wouldn’t just sell one type of hammer or brick! There are many different types of timber, from hardwoods and softwoods, to MDF and panel products, and each type has its own features and benefits, depending on your core customer profile. Selling a comprehensive range of timber can help you increase your margins and boost add-on sales of associated products, especially if you make sure your branch teams are fully versed in the differences between the products and how they are best used.
Fully understanding these differences will help you stock exactly the timber products that your customers need and will make sure your staff will always be able to give them the very best advice, meaning they’ll come back to buy from you time and again.
This article was originally published in the February issue of Builders’ Merchants’ News