Wood-plastic composite (WPC) decking has made incredible strides in the UK outdoor garden products market in the last 10 years.

The product has successfully carved a niche for itself among decking options which also include pressure-treated softwood, hardwoods and non-wood options (PVC & mineral fibres).

The fact that most WPC boards are at least 50% woodfibre (sometimes up to 75%) definitely qualifies the product for coverage in TTJ and indeed, most UK merchants and distributors now have a WPC option in the decking range.

Back in early 2023, TTJ had asked some of the leading WPC decking suppliers what their expectations had been for the market that year. At that stage they had been optimistic by early market signs following a 2022 which had seen market decline for the first time in many years.

So how did the year turn out in actuality?

The answer was mixed, depending on the market segment. The historic high level of outdoor garden product spend seen during Covid obviously dropped back in 2022-2023 but product innovation and a resilient higherend market meant opportunities and projects were still there.

UK WPC decking manufacturer Ecodek, which focuses on production of solid decking profiles, had earlier reported 2022 to be a “shock to the system” in terms of a demand reduction.

Now, looking back on 2023, Ecodek managing director Phil Marris said last year had failed to live up to early expectations.

“2023 was disappointing to be honest,” he said.

“The year had started pretty well, so there was a fair amount of optimism, but then high interest rates started to bite.

“We did not see the acceleration that we expected to see. Then summer into autumn died very quickly.”

 Mr Marris referenced the destocking trend that occurred in the merchant sector in H2 of 2023 – with merchants seeking to unload stocks in a low demand environment.

He pointed to the Builders Merchants Federation statistics, which described the landscaping product sector as down by about 13% overall for the year.

Ecodek’s own like-for-like sales reduced by about 10-15% for the year.

However, the launch of new products, Mr Marris explained, helped to keep the volume reduction down to high single figures.

The US-made Trex brand is imported by Arbor Forest Products.

Lee Heitzman, Trex’s market manager for the UK and Ireland, said the UK was in an unusual position last year where most distributors entered the season with very high inventory levels on the back of a strong trading period towards the end of the pandemic.

“The UK economy then weakened, slowing down trading and confidence,” said Mr Heitzman.

“Sales numbers through stocking merchants relying on ad-hoc trade found business challenging, but stocking merchants supplying our network of professional approved installers reported strong trading numbers throughout 2023.”

UK importer Composite Prime has a longestablished Chinese made product with a range of options.

Matthew Spedding, Composite Prime’s business development and marketing manager, said that people with money were still spending and that had boosted its sales in 2023.

“We still grew last year because the product and brand were more important than the price point,” he said.

“We are very brand heavy and focus on added value. We are not reliant on selling a low value WPC board for £15 per board for numbers sake. It’s the bells and whistles around it that makes the consumer more excited about having the products in the garden.”

Mr Spedding, who is also the NW divisional chairman of the British Association of Landscaping Industries (BALI), said many BALI members had recorded growth in Q3-4, 2023.

The year had started slowly, he added, but Q3 & Q4 had turned into “power quarters” for the landscaping sector.

After seeing a 25% sales reverse in 2022, Composite Prime reports a 28-30% sales growth in 2023, effectively recovering the 2022 drop in sales.


Looking at product trends, Trex said its new Signature product range – at the upper end of the market – was being well received by stockists and dealers. It is designed give a realistic-looking wood aesthetic and strong product performance, backed by a 50-year warranty.

The new Trex Signature collection

“For 2024, we are anticipating natural and neutral colours to dominate as they allow homeowners a blank canvas on which to display their own creativity – this often allows them to draw on their own, unique experiences and bring them to life on their deck,” said Lee Heitzman.

“Sustainability is an ever-growing focus, and the attention people are giving to the environment shows no signs of slowing down, too.”

Both Signature and the Transcend ranges offer improved product performance, coupled with a more modern aesthetic to cater for the refined palette of today’s consumer.

Signature uses a notably different process than any other Trex product, to give ease of maintenance and high performance with a protective capping formulation to “deliver the most realistic representation of wood attained to date”.

It is available in Ocracoke, a rich brown hue that “evokes a secluded island sheltered by sandy dunes and marshy shores”, while Whidbey provides a sleek grey alternative that “transports users to misty cliffs”.

Ecodek agrees that lighter colours are becoming more popular, reflected in its sample requests.

“We are seeing a lot of interest in our newer colours, such as light silvery grey and light creamy type colours and lighter browns,” said Phil Marris.

Ecodek launched a new website in January and also has an enhanced product range.

Last year it launched its high-end Evolution range, featuring its EcoTech advanced protective outer layer (capping). The addition of capping, says Ecodek, is designed to give exceptional stain and colour fade resistance, and is an easy-to-clean, low maintenance option.

The product also has a rich woodgrain texture to emulate real wood, “for a luxurious, timeless finish”.

Mr Marris said Ecodek’s development area was focused on the woodgrain and capped products rather than grooved or ribbed, with different options for different applications.

Composite Prime’s best-selling HD Deck 3D

“Customers tend to want more of a woodgrain finish. Capped gives you benefits against colour fading and the opportunity to do light colours because with uncapped products there is a limit with how light a colour you can go.

“Evolution is the first co-extruded capped solid WPC product we have done in the company, so it took a long time to get it right. There will be another decking product coming out this year.”

Ecodek is also working to enter the WPC fencing and cladding market, as well as experimenting with harder-to-recycle polymer products like coffee cups to further improve its environmental credentials.

Composite Prime has remodelled its range for 2024.

“We have remodelled our range for 2024,” said Matthew Spedding. “We’ve cut out a lot of the lower priced stuff and raised the bar again, introduced some new colours and introduced a new brushed woodgrain – our HD 3D+ board.

“HD 3D was our biggest seller in 2023 and we’ve evolved that to make the product sexier. “The 3D+ has a new woodgrain and is now outselling anything we have and that is at a higher price point.”

It also features a capping.

“It’s not our lower end products, but the higher value products that grew in 2023. That is where we see the growth.”

Composite Prime has also observed a consumer move away from the grooved and ribbed look.

“We’re now seeing the market wanting purely woodgrain, so we developed a dual woodgrain instead of a woodgrain one side and a groove the other side. I think people associated the ribs with lower value.

“And we are seeing brown coming back. We’re focusing more on product evolution, new colours, new woodgrains and new capping. The consumer is becoming a lot more switched on to having a capped board, as opposed to an uncapped board.”

The colour fastness, prolonged UV stability, stain resistance, ease of cleaning and longer warranties of capped boards are the reason for this, he added.

“Consumers are much more aware of composite boards now and what they want from them.”


One thing which is key to market performance in the outdoor product sector is the weather.

Lighter and brown colours are trending. Ecodek Evolution in Hazelnut Brown

As TTJ was going to press, we were approaching the all-important Easter season, typically a time when the days are getting lighter and warmer, with people looking to get out in the garden more. February saw the wettest on record for many UK regions.

“It’s that time of year now, if the sun comes out and stays out for a weekend we hope for a significant increase in sales,” said Phil Marris.

“We have been relatively conservative for our budget this year, but we are budgeting for growth, some will come as organic likefor- like growth and some due to product innovation.

“I think the market will be different shaped. Last year we saw interest rates and the cost of living bearing down on demand through the year. It is election year in 2024. I think we will see an increase in demand.

 “What we have seen so far this year is more early demand, with web traffic and enquiries up.”

Ecodek believes its position as a UK manufacturer positions it to supply bespoke commercial or public sector projects with non-standard deck board lengths. A local authority contract in Hornsea, Yorkshire in 2023, featured the company supplying 2.1m long boards to identically replace the existing product in boardwalks.

Mr Marris referenced the issue of some low quality Far Eastern hollow-core imported products coming into the market and believes the sector may see reports of some more product failures as a result.

He differentiated these products to some of the well-established UK importers supplying Far Eastern product supported by warranties.

Composite Prime’s Matthew Spedding agreed that some white label “pile it high and sell it cheap” products were still in the market, with some suppliers just looking to offer the lowest price option.

He reported a very strong order book going into Q1 2024.

“We see 2024 as better than 2023. We have had some tremendous sales in Q1, and were happy for that,

 “This year our primary investment focus is installers. We are now going very hard and investing in the installation industry for us to influence the product decisions made on a domestic and commercial level.”

Composite Prime has scrapped its old pro installer scheme and established a new Lantra accredited training academy called Build with Prime, whereby installers are required to complete a two-day training course to be an accredited Composite Prime installer.

“One of our largest growth areas is our cladding products. HD Clad Pro is booming in the modular buildings and garden office sector. The composite fence market has grown as well – we’re in the process of launching a phase two fencing product. We have seen a monstrous increase in our enquiry rates for composite fencing this year.

“There are people out there with money, you just have to market for that individual and find them. It’s not all doom and gloom, we are selling a luxury product.”

It also has high hopes from its new distributor Global Stone Paving.

Arbor is hopeful for 2024 prospects for Trex.

“The market is still very much saturated with lower quality products and, given the downturn in demand, it is going to take some time to filter through this inventory,” said Lee Heitzman.

“Consumers are becoming wise to the risk with these products and social media is littered with examples of product failures on an almost daily basis. This would indicate that, hopefully, the market will start to clean itself up.

“On the horizon, we should start to see some of these suppliers moving away to newer, emerging global markets where their products are untested.