“Sales of hardwood grew so much last quarter that the price of US white oak has risen by 40%”
If you’re looking for hardwood, you might want to give us a ring today. Well, that’s assuming recent trends in the sector hold up. Quercus has seen huge demand for hardwood over the past few months – and we’re not alone. And, because supply is struggling to keep up, prices are rising all around the country.
The last few months of 2020 and the first few months of 2021 have been incredibly busy for hardwood suppliers, as demand has skyrocketed. However, supply has struggled to keep up. One importer said: “A range of factors have coincided, from Covid-19, of course, to poor weather delaying harvest from some sources and soaring Asian freight rates. Throw in rising demand globally and it’s the perfect storm. With North America in particular, we haven’t experienced a supply situation like it.”
Unfortunately, these tightening factors curtailed supply to the extent that prices began to rise. The obvious example is US white oak, which has seen its price shoot up by an unbelievable 40%, but other timbers have also experienced price appreciation (European oak, for example, has seen its price increase by 5%). To some extent, this dynamic is a natural rebound from the depression the sector underwent between March and May 2020, when the pandemic hit. At that point, the bottom fell out of the market, and demand dropped to 30-40% of its normal level.
At present, increased demand shows no sign of abating any time soon. One British importer was quoted as saying: “We’d usually expect to do 60-70% of normal monthly trade in December. Instead we did 120%. We hit the ground running in January and February’s looking OK too.”
Another factor in this rising demand is the well-publicised surge in home and garden improvements that has been sustaining people’s attention during lockdown. People have been converting spare rooms into offices, using their time on furlough to refurbish their house, and buying new garden furniture since, well, they haven’t been able to go anywhere else. As many of you reading this will already know, the joinery and construction sectors have been major beneficiaries of this trend.
However, it is major international demand that looks as though it will be the most persistent constraint on Britain’s national supply. China has recovered from the pandemic and is back in the market, and the US construction sector has accelerated significantly (+200,000 new housing starts in 2020).
There is a general view in the trade (and we agree with it) that demand will continue to outpace supply for some time in the UK. For our customers, that means two things – first, if you know you need something, buy it today… don’t wait for prices to rise further. And second, if you’re open to trying new varieties, talk to us and see if there’s a timber you haven’t thought of (which hasn’t shot up in price) that would suit your project. We remain committed to bringing our customers the best deal possible, so give us a call on 0845 50 50 311 and find out how we can help.