Gavin Hoe, Director of Sales – Fencing, Cast Stone and Walling at Supreme Concrete, discusses how the industry is working to tackle material shortages, outlining the importance of manufacturers, merchants and the supply chain to keep working in partnership to try and manage this substantial surge in demand.
Over the last 18 months, there has been a significant increase in demand for building materials with landscaping one of the categories under the biggest stress, due to the considerable uplift in gardening projects undertaken throughout lockdown. Indeed, recent research shows that upgrades to the garden and outside areas are high on the list of home improvement plans for many Brits as part of a wider renovation boom that is predicted to top £135 billion over the next 12 months.
However, we continue to face extended material shortages for a wide variety of building products, including timber and plastics. This is due to a multitude of factors including reduced manufacturing output throughout COVID-19 in addition to the implications of the Brexit trade deal and major haulage shortages as a consequence of the reduced availability of drivers.
Furthermore, high profile infrastructure projects including HS2 are also impacting the availability of necessary building materials such as concrete.
All of these factors have created an extremely challenging market to operate within. And whilst selling everything that you are producing is usually a very positive situation for a manufacturer and our merchant customers, at Supreme Concrete we certainly don’t feel like we’re winning in the current climate.
The fact remains that until all of our customers are receiving the levels of materials they need to meet their business requirements, none of us are where we want to be at the moment.
We understand the importance of assured supply and acknowledge that, due to all the factors outlined previously, this is a major issue affecting both ourselves at Supreme and the wider market. Supporting our merchant network in meeting their commitments is our number one priority, and we are working around the clock to do all we can to try and meet the demands of our customers.
This includes continuing to make strategically-led decisions to support the manufacture of landscaping solutions that are experiencing the highest demand, including the application of strategic shift pattern changes within our factories. This optimises every single hour to increase manufacturing output, whilst operating in a COVID-secure way to continue to protect the health and well-being of our employees, suppliers and customers.
We have also continued to undertake significant investment throughout the business, with increased manufacturing capabilities, range rationalisation and enhanced product quality protocols being implemented to help increase capacity without compromising on quality.
Communication and trust lies at the core of overcoming this turbulent trading environment, and we are committed to having open and consistent dialogue with our merchant partners to establish as much forward visibility as possible of orders and identify how we can continue to implement key learnings to make us an even easier company to do business with now and in the future.
Concrete is king
This partnership approach includes working in closer collaboration with merchants to identify the product ranges currently in highest demand, including new fencing and paving as gardening projects top homeowners’ priorities.
So whilst timber fence posts may be a first consideration for these types of projects, merchants can support customers in achieving a more durable and longer lasting finish, whilst also simplifying the installation process, by recommending and supplying concrete fence posts.
As a low maintenance and resilient alternative to timber, concrete fence posts can accommodate a wide variety of fence panels, providing customers with greater design flexibility — particularly for gardens with unusual or smaller dimensions.
Merchants can also cross sell complementary landscaping ranges, including products such as concrete path edging, which has been specifically designed to decrease installation times whilst increasing overall longevity and durability. Featuring parallel sides, concrete path edging is one of the most effective forms of pathway management and is ideal for use with pavers to create a visually appealing yet functional finish.
Due to the very nature of these concrete products, surface stability is radically improved through the cutting and filling process, providing customers with an affordable, effective and efficient solution to complete landscaping projects quickly and to the highest standard.
Choosing concrete over timber can also be applied to decking products, with solutions including Supreme’s DEK-BLOK and DECKPOST ranges which present an affordable yet effective choice for decking foundations, particularly for uneven or unstable ground. Eliminating the requirement to dig holes, mix concrete and pour footings for the posts, their lightweight structure makes the products easy to handle and removes the need for cutting on-site.
Taken together, this presents individuals with a comprehensive suite of landscaping solutions that are simple to install and easy to maintain. And because concrete is resistant to moisture and rot, merchants can give customers the confidence that every aspect of their landscaping project will stand the test of time.