Timber Trade Federation CEO David Hopkins looks ahead at opportunities and challenges for timber supply this autumn.


t a time of fluctuating timber prices,

launching a campaign called ‘Wood Costs

Less’ may seem a little ironic to most builders merchants. Yet the Timber Trade Federation is joining forces with the Structural Timber Association, Confor (the Confederation of Forest Industries) and Wood for Good to help drive up business across the supply chain in the months ahead, as house-building tip-toes out of the pandemic-related doldrums. The campaign is designed to encourage housebuilders, contractors, architects and legislators to embrace wood’s positive effect on climate change and increase its use across all types of construction. With that will

come opportunities for builders’ merchants to sell more of their most profitable category. Yet with shortages manifesting themselves in some product lines, due to many factors influencing the supply chain from the early stages of the pandemic, merchants’ attentions are more focussed right now on the financial, rather than the environmental, costs of timber. The Wood Costs Less campaign aims to promote building with wood as the best material for achieving a ‘net zero’ future. It concentrates on timber’s carbon storage abilities - around 19 tonnes could be stored in every three-bed semi built, by using wood wherever possible. The concept certainly has its backers, the independent Committee on Climate Change for one: it sets the UK’s carbon budgets on the journey towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The business potential for merchants is substantial if the campaign succeeds, given the sheer number of wood products that builders could be using in retrofit and new- build projects.

To take full advantage, though, as the Brexit transition period romps towards its conclusion in a few months’ time, merchants may need to plan a little further ahead

than has been the norm. Just-in- time deliveries have been standard fayre for merchants for years now. Yard space is an issue for some, particularly at the smaller end of the independent merchant sector, so holding more stock may not be an option. Forecasting and planning ahead, however, will be key in future, and will help in establishing greater security of supply in uncertain times. No-one is looking to return to the high stocking levels which characterised the first two abortive attempts to secure a Brexit trade deal with the EU. Yet one can’t help noting that millions of extra customs documents will need to be processed should there

be a no-deal situation. There may be some interruption to ‘business as usual’, as over 90% of the timber used in new-build housing in the UK comes in from EU countries. As we approach the final reckoning with the EU in December, advance thinking, and working closely with your with suppliers, could help you prepare for the financial implications of any currency fluctuations that may be initiated at the end of transition. While timber might not be ‘costing the earth’ in terms of the climate emergency, merchants may need to plan ahead this autumn to reduce the impacts of other external factors on costs and continuity of supply.


28 August 2020

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