A report on the UK hardwood market in the Timber Trades Journal notes that the sector was not in total lockdown in April, but activity was radically reduced by the Covid-19 epidemic.
Most hardwood companies responding to the TTJ survey said that they had taken advantage of the new government grant scheme to furlough personnel. One leading importer/distributor said they had ‘downsized’ in line with demand and others had shut their doors entirely, initially for three weeks. Some customers are continuing to operate for the time being, and we’re still getting orders, they said. “Some construction sites are still working and joinery companies are staying open to supply them and there’s also DIY demand, presumably with people staying at home in the lockdown.
There were reports of some customers actually increasing orders early to mid-March, seemingly as a hedge against suppliers curtailing operations. But that came to a halt after government announcements of restrictions on public gathering and closure of restaurants, pubs and other amenities. Other news from the UK highlights the vulnerability of the hardwood sector during the COVID-19 lockdown and its aftermath. Most producers and traders are small companies that sell into other sectors, such as high-end joinery and furniture manufacturing, equally dependent on smaller operators.
The problems for small and medium-sized contractors in the UK were clearly highlighted in a Federation of Master Builders (FMB) survey published on 17 April. Almost two thirds (65%) of small building companies stated that they would not be able to last more than two months without grants from the government while almost a quarter (24%) said they would struggle even to get through four weeks.