TTJ: What’s the state of the mouldings market?

Graham Williams, Managing Director W Howard (GW): The current market for MDF mouldings could best be described as steady, with suppressed levels of activity uncertainty due to the Brexit vote and downbeat UK economic assessments regardless. There’s also additional market capacity, with more planned this year, and it’s already creating downward price pressure as businesses look to fill it.

John Carney, Cheshire Mouldings Managing Director (JC): We’re finding the market very strong and seeing between 10- 15% annual growth.

David Howard, Director DW Mouldings (DH): It seems to be very good at the moment. It’s always feast and famine in our business, but it’s good to see more feast and less famine as it is currently.

Gary Sowerby, Sales Manager, Balcas (GS): We’re currently finding both UK and Irish markets currently busy,

Andrew Donaldson, commercial director, James Donaldson Timber (AD): It’s really a tale of two halves, with continued product replacement of machined redwood/ whitewood mouldings, with white primed MDF.

TTJ: What are key sales drivers?

GW: Key drivers for MDF mouldings remain largely the volumes required by the house building and contracting sectors. But DIY requirements and smaller projects have also moved proportionately, as well as increases in higher end requirements in veneers.

JC: Our main markets are RMI and DIY.

DH: We do a lot of trade milling and from this we can see there’s still a large market for solid wood flooring, cladding and decking for new build. On our own machining, there’s been growth to ‘white van man’ and self-employed carpenters for refurbishments.

GS: KOTA, our white prefinished brand, is generating lots of interest from new clients and our existing DIY customer base. B&Q is committed to increasing the range during 2016 and we’re working closely with Arnold Laver on high profile projects using KOTA.

AD: The RMI market remains the redwood mouldings consumer, while the main volume of white primed MDF mouldings is accounted for by new build, for which they’re perfectly suited as they’re in standard, defect-free lengths.

TTJ: What are your Best performers?

GW: By volume, but not necessarily margin, it’s the usual suspects – ogee, torus and pencil rounded, all mainly in a pre-primed finish.

JC: Quadrants, scotia, angle corners and Stripwood

DH: We don’t have many standard products, as we machine 99% to order. But there are over 1700 profiles in our ‘online profile library’, with the same waiting to be added. We couldn’t hold all of these in all timbers, so we offer fast machining turnaround. The only stocked sections are flooring accessories, and some oak skirting, architraves and PAR sections – all good movers.

AD: White primed continues to strengthen its hold on the market.

TTJ: Have you introduced new products recently?

JC: We’ve launched decorative wall and door panels. These offer DIY’ers a product ready to glue to the wall or door; a simple, cost-effective way to transform any living space. We’re also looking at engineered and real wood veneered and wrapped styles for skirting’s, architraves and small section mouldings.

GW: We’ve introduced a CNC facility, which provides exciting added-value options, including fully-serviced linings and casings for hinges and latches. We’ve also introduced a 3D printing facility, allowing customers to have a free 3D model of any profile they’re considering – and we’ve got exciting plans for some additional launches soon.

TTJ: What mouldings styles and finishes are strongest?

JC: White primed is seeing good growth, but clear pine mouldings are still good volume sellers and oak seems to be becoming more popular again.

DH: Primed are doing very well, especially on fire door frame material and associated profiles. But we’ve also witnessed a change in the flooring market, from an array of timbers to mainly oak, with various stains for the required look. People are looking for certain colours to match their project. Using one timber with various colour options reduces stock holding.

GS: The primed MDF sector remains very important, but we’ve also seen a big demand increase for oak veneered products and, within that, there’s a growing demand for prefinished.

GW: The overwhelming volume of sales remain white primed, but we’re seeing continued growth in veneered, particularly design-led dyed veneers.

TTJ: How is the market dividing between different materials?

JC: Pre-finished, white painted and veneer wrap mouldings are certainly the main products for future growth.

WH: There’s little doubt that MDF will continue to replace softwood as more house builders switch to it.

TTJ: Which routes to market are doing best?

JC: We’re seeing equal growth to trade, timber and builders merchants and retail outlets.

DH: We supply timber/builders merchants and retail and the increase of their business indicates that anything to do with DIY and refurb markets is doing well.

TTJ: have you undertaken major investment recently?

JC: We’ve invested £5.2m in two years on new machinery, including a mouldings line with capacity for handling 12 bundles per minute and an optimising and detecting cross cut line with Microtec scanning. We’ve a fifth moulding line planned for November and a veneer line for wrapped skirtings and mouldings.

We also installed new barcode picking and a site management system and added four new lorries to our fleet. An 81,000ft2 distribution centre for core business and new offices are due to open in August, a new website launches in September and we’re working on new merchandising and POS solutions dh: We’ve purchased another Weinig KR310 multirip to speed up production, but our biggest investment this year is solar panels, which will cut energy costs and help the environment – a win win.

GW: In addition to our CNC, we’ve invested heavily in reducing energy use for immediate and long-term benefits. We’ve installed solar panels to help power our Manchester and Newtown factories and both also now have new energy efficient extraction and spark detection systems. We’ve added five new fuel-efficient vehicles to the delivery fleet and have further plans for manufacturing investment

AD: We’ve installed the first fully automated MDF mouldings line in Scotland. The Scottish market lagged behind the rest of the UK, but now appears to be fully embracing white primed MDF and our new state of the art facility significantly increases capacity and flexibility, giving improved lead times.

TTJ: How is the market looking for the year ahead?

AD: We’re extremely optimistic for both softwood and MDF mouldings. Our investment in MDF production illustrates this and we’ve got plans to invest in softwood facilities too this year.

GS: There’s huge pent up demand for housing in the UK and Ireland and we’re well positioned and flexible enough to cope. All in all it’s looking very positive.

JC: Mouldings is a strong sector and our growth projections look likely to continue. dh: Who knows? With timber prices rising due to the weakening pound, and suppliers struggling to get specifications, plus Brexitvote uncertainty? So we’ll just keep providing quality and service, keeping customers happy and the future will sort itself out.

GW: As suggested, there are concerns regarding the market as the year progresses and into 2017 for economic and market capacity reasons.

TTJ: What are your Customer Top Tips for making the most of mouldings?

Jo Davies, Cheshire Mouldings Marketing Manager: Ensure they’re easy to find and accessible in store and display them neatly and clearly labelled so they’re easy for customers to navigate. Also bring the mouldings applications to life to inspire less knowledgeable users and consumers and display counter top samples units at the till for add on sales. We’re offering customers a new colour-coded mouldings stand, including photography to bring products to life and posters to highlight different styles available. We also supply training material to ensure customers’ staff understand different mouldings applications so they can help and advise customers.

DH: I wouldn’t tell anyone how to suck eggs, but quality sells. Anyone can buy cheap material with bad machining, but it will come back to bite you. I prefer to spend my time selling, not sorting out problems, so we send out quality products we won’t get back. In turn, that makes customers lives easier too.

GW: We’d advise merchants to work long-term with suppliers offering a broad product range, service, innovation and flexibility. We’d also advise them to advocate that MDF means ‘Manufactured Defect Free’; that the defining difference between MDF and softwood is no knots or shakes, so that means significantly less site waste.