It often appears that despite the level of technology, software and tooling available to the woodworking industry, it fails to deliver products that are either innovative or strive to be anything other than cheap.

When you consider what our forefathers had at their disposal to manufacture fine woodwork, I can’t help feeling that we have missed the plot. With the most basic equipment, they created works of art in wood; caring about the quality and style of what they made, embellishing them, making each piece a statement of design. They helped define eras of architecture – Jacobean, Elizabethan, Edwardian, Georgian – making huge efforts to incorporate a level of detail that we would be proud of today.

It doesn’t feel that way now and I often wonder what drives the woodwork industry today. It seems to want to bring everything down to the lowest level – “cheap” – too quick to compromise on innovation, design and quality. Trapped in low price mentality, it assumes that the majority of customers are no longer discerning enough to want something other than basic.

Should we be driven by the corporate buyer? Should we be more passionate about our ability as an industry and should we be more determined to showcase what we can do with the resources we have today?

If things continue the way they are then within a generation, it will be too late to reverse the trend. Take a walk through your local DIY store where people are exposed to a host of poor quality and a lack of design choice in timber products. Before long, customers will think that everything made from timber is of low value and lacklustre. Timber can be made beautiful.

On the whole there is a reluctance to push the boundaries in the merchant market and the same applies to much of the stair manufacturing industry. Again it seems that it has reached its lowest common denominator, with the average stair comprising the thinnest, cheapest, lacklustre style of straight balusters.

Many companies remain totally subservient to the call of the buyer to be cheap and get cheaper. There is a reluctance to promote anything new, assuming that the national housebuilder will never consider improving their specifications. But when things reach the bottom, there is only one way they can go. Yes, the assumption that cheap is the only way will endure for some companies, but those with foresight will see the need for change and realise that being different and better can pay dividends. It may cost a little more initially but will set them apart and give them competitive advantage and that means “value for money”. Housebuilders, merchants and stair manufacturers can all benefit from raising the bar, incorporating more design elements into what they offer.

Consumers are discerning. House buyers, homeowners and DIYers want good quality products that suit today’s design and fashion trends, not just the cheapest. The timber industry should respond, recognise and capitalise on the value of design, quality and innovation.

Timber has so much more scope. With a little more inspiration and focus the industry can help itself to get out of the doldrums.