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Perfect storm of timber demand creates 'long-term fence shortage'

Published: 24 March 2014
The destructive storms that raged over the winter and a resurgence in the construction industry have combined to leave the UK with a long-term shortage of fence panels.
Perfect storm of timber demand creates 'long-term fence shortage'
Leading supplier of garden timber products Forest Garden says the dearth of supply is at a level not seen since the great storms of 2007.

The shortage is primarily due to a lack of raw materials - caused not only by the dramatic upturn in demand for replacement fence panels as a result of the extreme winter weather. Forest says it has coincided with a growing call for timber from the building industry.

Despite some manufacturers, including Forest, putting increased fence panel production measures into place, there is not the capacity in the UK to meet this demand. Forest says retailers and trade outlets now need to face the reality of reduced fence panel availability for some time to come.

Although it is now over six weeks since the last of the storms battered the UK, demand for stock is still incredibly high says John Gomersall, Forest's sales and marketing director.

"The storms may have died down but the long-term implications are still being felt," he says. "Presently, we're witnessing demand that is upwards of five times the normal level, and still increasing."

He says the growing economy has also contributed to lack of materials, with the need for timber increasing as the building and construction industry gets back on its feet.

"The knock-on effect of this raw material shortage is also resulting in some short-term capacity issues for smaller manufacturers", Mr Gomersall goes on. "Lack of material has meant that some have had to cease production. The demand that they would ordinarily see is being passed onto companies such as our own, further increasing our ongoing demand.

"Add to this the fact that spring marks the time of year when we'd normally be building stock levels ahead of the core gardening period, and you can begin to understand the pressures that suppliers such as ourselves, and retailers and trade outlets are currently dealing with."

He said Forest was working with its customers to place stock in the right locations: "Regular stock allocation to where it is most needed in relation to sales history has actually helped our customers increase their sales against a backdrop of reducing stock levels within their outlets.

"Additionally, Forest is in a unique position, in that we're a UK supplier that is vertically integrated with its own sawmills. This means that we're able to increase product availability better than most when it's needed, and as far as possible can replenish stock as quickly as possible."

Forest recently added 100 new workers to its team to help meet the increased demand, and says they will now be retained for much longer than expected.

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