Jonathan Cooper, Trex Business Manager at Arbor Forest Products, explains how merchants can overcome key challenges this decking season.
To say the least, 2020 was an unpredictable year — from lockdowns to a surge in demand for home improvements and ongoing Brexit negotiations, it’s no surprise that the industry faced a number of supply issues throughout last year.
With many people still spending more time at home than ever before, homeowners are looking set to continue using this unique period in time to carry out home improvement projects. In particular, with guidance recommending socialising outdoors where possible for some time yet, more and more people are turning to decking as a way of making the most of their outside space — with many decking installers busier than ever.
Installers facing another intense decking season means that merchants are set to experience a busy few months too, but how can some of last year’s issues be avoided?
Following the UK’s first lockdown in March last year, with the majority of people spending most of their time at home, demand for refurbishments saw a large increase — something many merchants will have experienced first-hand. And as homeowners continue to be encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, this desire for home improvements has made its way outdoors as people want to extend their living space outside.
One of the key ways people have been choosing to do this is by installing decking — something which has been showing an upwards trend since the 1990s — as it’s a great way to create an outdoor living space, and designs can be adapted to accommodate whatever space is available.
While it’s fantastic to see the home improvement market continuing to do so well during such turbulent times, it’s no surprise that it has put a strain on the supply chain. But it’s not just an increased demand merchants have been faced with over the past year, as the ongoing Brexit negotiations and general supply issues created a knock-on effect across the industry.
The political and economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit — particularly the impact this would have on the movement of goods — was yet another cause for concern for all members of the timber supply chain. While Britain has now formally left the European Union, taking away the high level of uncertainty caused by long Brexit negotiations, 2021 is still likely to see a period of adjustment which may in turn create some supply delays.
And with the Timber Trade Federation predicting that supply shortages may continue through at least the first half of 2021, it’s clear that merchants must expect the unexpected in order to thrive during these unprecedented times.
Market challenges provide an opportunity for all levels of the supply chain to learn valuable lessons in how to deal with them, and there are three key ways for merchants to overcome the obstacles that started last year and are continuing into this year too: by being knowledgeable, responsive and communicative.
Perhaps one of the simplest ways for merchants to avoid some of the challenges faced during last year’s decking season is to keep up-to-date with the latest news and developments related to the industry. Following key industry bodies, news outlets and suppliers on social media is often one of the quickest ways to find any updates on issues which may affect the supply of decking products.
If last year taught us anything, it’s that circumstances can change in the blink of an eye. As the UK continues to adjust to not only the ever-changing situation presented by the pandemic but also the aftermath of Brexit, it’s imperative that merchants work in a way which allows for change.
Plans should be in place for how to respond to different scenarios — whether that’s for varying levels of lockdown or supply issues, for example. Pre-empting difficult situations and having a plan on how to deal with them before they arise means that if and when they do, responding to them will be a much smoother process.
Communication is key across all levels of the decking supply chain, and merchants are no exception. With decking installers facing yet another decking season and beyond in high demand, they will be relying on their chosen merchant to have the products they need available when they need them. Of course, 2020 proved that external issues can have a huge knock-on effect for supply; but when this is the case, merchants must communicate as openly and honestly with decking installers as possible in order to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship.
By staying informed, having plans in place for changing situations and maintaining open lines of communication, merchants will be in a strong position as we head into another busy decking season – and beyond.
To find out more about Arbour Forest Products go to: https://www.arborforestproducts.co.uk/about-us/our-story/