While there may be a few who have bucked the trend, the last couple of years have generally been horrendous and I guess that if you analyse the figures, recent product inflation has probably saved the rump of the industry from even more pain.

Recently The Timber Trade Federation’s monthly reports on imports have shown an improvement, although I suspect import volumes have held up in 2010 as a lot of it is stock which is still in the system and not sold on.

My guess is that the industry as a whole is not finding life very exciting in volume terms and while higher prices have masked it, we could well be selling less than in 2009 and that wasn’t exactly a brilliant year!

Now we have the added concerns of shrinking public procurement in 2011, so maybe 2010 will be as good as it gets.

I know this is gloomy reading for the holiday season, but there’s no point trying to ignore obvious signs.

So, what the heck are we going to do about it? In the short term we make hay while the sun shines – higher prices at maintained margins will mean more profits as we deliver more turnover while using fewer overheads, but this probably won’t last.

Then we could either cut back and retrench to rebalance the books, or else get on the front foot and see about pushing our products into places which others see as their rightful territory.

There’s a huge effort going into talking up the environmental strengths of rival products ­ and what that’s telling me is that people know timber is ahead of them.

So, the old message seems to be the right one – improve the specification and increase the availability of products that are certified and have known values, promote the industry as a generic whole and counter other sectors’ dubious green claims with facts.

We’re not alone in being concerned about future business, but life will go on; buildings will be built and timber consumed in all manner of ways. It’s our job to press the case, keep our noses clean and, above all, provide the highest possible levels of service and thereby improve our share.