Fencing crisis is set to continue, says trade association

Published:  30 April, 2014

The British Home Enhancement Trade Association (BHETA) has revealed that the shortage of wooden fence panels created by the recent storms looks set to stay at crisis level for several months to come.

According to BHETA’s members, the enormous demand for replacement fencing has had a knock-on effect in the timber industry as a whole, decimating supplies of suitable softwood fencing materials. It is this timber shortage that will prolong the problems now affecting fencing installers, consumers and DIY retail, the association has said.

Peter Stone, home improvement sector director at BHETA, explained: “Some of the big suppliers have taken on more workers and bought in more machinery to try and speed up panel supply, but our members are saying this is pointless as the issue is now one of materials shortage – ironically being exacerbated by the overall economic upturn.

“The problem is likely to pose questions in the supply of other similar products, like trellis and wooden garden buildings, so it could be bad news for retailers in these product areas just at the time of year when consumers take a big interest in improving their gardens.”

Eve Johnson, group marketing manager of BSW Timber, agrees that the upturn in the UK economy has been problematic for the supply chain.

“Softwood consumption shrunk from 11 million m3 in 2011 to 8.3 million m3 last year due to the overall economic downturn,” she began to explain. “In the UK market, softwood timber supply is 60% sourced overseas and 40% home grown. The overseas sourcing options are changing as our overseas competitors find other more lucrative markets elsewhere.

“Now, with the upturn in the UK economy and the increase in construction requirements for timber, our own sales are up 20% - the UK softwood supply chain finds itself trying to catch up.”

Ms Johnson continued: “Against this background, while any responsible timber supplier or fencing business allows for an element of weather damage in March/April and stockpiles accordingly, the prolonged nature of this year’s storms and their early start in the season have wiped out the reasonable allowances made by the supply chain. That makes a sudden upturn in supply very difficult to achieve.”

Richard Bennett of Grange Fencing, a BHETA member, concurred. “It’s now the shortage of suitable timber components that is the real constraint,” he said. “In the current shortage, stockists are tending to limit their ordering to 6ft-high panels, which of course use more timber than the other smaller sizes, and this is consequently further limiting the number of panels that can be produced. We are talking to our customers week by week to confirm what’s possible, in order to ensure we all get the most out of the timber available.”

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