The downturn has produced some shocks, but a profit jump at Poundland wasn’t among them. Naturally the budget retailer has benefited from the fact that recession sends people flocking for special offers – although my perspective from trailing my bargain-hunter wife, is that pound shops don’t provide exceptional deals, just lots of things that are only worth a pound.

But going the low price route isn’t the only way for a business to survive a slump, as the continued success of John Lewis at the other end of the retail spectrum shows.

Every business buyer and consumer is looking for value for money and most are probably cutting overall expenditure. However, for many this means buying less, but better, rather than buying cheap. So if every retailer and supplier goes bargain basement, there will be missed opportunities as well as more blood on the walls, and that applies to timber as much as any other business.

James Latham, for one, says it will continue to develop product lines in 2009 that give added customer benefit and differentiate it from the competition.

Chairman Peter Latham also points out that, among the markets expected to remain busy this year are healthcare and education construction. In both, public and private sector clients want the best price from contractors and suppliers, but are just as demanding on other criteria. Notable among these, and where the timber sector really scores, is environmental performance – and encouragingly, we also hear this week of developments in the government’s eco-oriented ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme.

Seemingly less welcome news is that it will cost more for timber traders to prove they’re green, with the Forest Stewardship Council raising fees for certified companies. But the organisation insists it will use the extra cash to promote the pluses of buying certified material. Combined with the increasing volumes of the latter becoming available this should ultimately give timber businesses an added marketing edge – and less incentive to do a Poundland.