TTJ – Positive prospects as the trade pulls together

11 Feb 2021

Timber Connection were approached by the Timber Trades Journal to report on the impact of the pandemic throughout 2020 and thoughts on prospects for the year ahead. Read Managing Director Danny Catherall’s article below:

We’ve fared very well this year considering the impact of Covid, especially during April and May where budgeted sales reduced by over 50%. However, since the start of June we outstripped pre-Covid budgets and during the autumn monthly sales surged by over 20% to the year-end, so 2020 is 5% up on a record 2019.

Due to the low staffing levels needed in our warehouse and our sales and administration team’s ability to work from home, we were able to operate fully throughout.

Cash flow came under immediate pressure as some customers held back on payments, sales slowed and timber continued to arrive from overseas – quite a scary position to be in without knowing when things might improve. As a well-established company our pre-crisis financial strength allowed us to arrange temporary lending through government schemes and our bank if required, but fortunately the worst case scenario didn’t happen as the lockdown was gradually eased.

For two months it was tough going but it gave us time to plan and build a strategy going forward. Lockdown would potentially take us into a recession, but we had managed well in previous recessions. Whilst many timber businesses have to react quickly to a down turn in sales by reducing stock, our position in the market allows us to supply customers on a just-in-time basis thus reducing their exposure and risk. To enable us to do this we remained committed to forward purchasing.

The response from our staff was incredible. Working from home can be a difficult discipline but they showed just how dynamic and self-motivated they can be.

The warehouse was put under huge pressure with stock increasing by 25% between March and June. Shipments continued to arrive with very little stock being sold, but our staff worked all hours to free up as much room as possible. Our customers helped us by taking as much timber as they could from existing orders and many of our suppliers assisted us by staggering shipments. There was a real sense of everyone pulling together.

We believe 2021 will continue to be a positive time for the timber industry. Brexit will no doubt cause logistical teething problems, but we are committed to ensuring customers can continue to source timber quickly and efficiently.

The vaccine shows us light at the end of the tunnel and, with government promising a levelling up in rebuilding the economy and a commitment to a greener infrastructure, demand for timber as the go-to sustainable material will no doubt increase.

As sole UK and Ireland distributor of LIGNIA modified timber we appreciate the advantages of these products. Sustainable plantation softwood modified to look and perform better than most hardwoods. Modified timbers are still relatively new but undoubtedly here to stay.

Too many people still have negative perceptions of timber, notably linking tropical timber production with rainforest destruction and its associated negative impacts. As a tropical timber supplier we are committed to sustainably sourced hardwoods, with the majority of our supply from minimum third-party legal sources, including plantations. The trade must promote these sustainable materials. It is happening but there is still a long way to go.