In this issue of TTJ, it’s clear the timber import, distribution and merchanting sectors have now largely embraced wood plastic composites (WPC) as another option in their decking product portfolio, with the prospect of it taking a place in cladding and high-end fencing applications as well).

I can’t think of a product sales growth curve to match WPCs at the moment and the general feeling among traders is this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. We can also expect to see other WPCs expand into other applications – balustrades for example, while several companies are launching cladding and fence products this year.

As is the way when a product is growing strongly, everyone seems to jump on the bandwagon and sometimes it is product quality in some imported products that suffers.

Hopefully, the Timber Decking & Cladding Association’s new product approval scheme will be backed by the various WPC brands, giving suppliers and users confidence on product quality and performance. Whilst this new kid on the block is clearly the talk of the decking trade, the good news is that softwood decking’s leading market position looks set to continue due to its price position.

In terms of new drivers for wood products, something that came over loud and clear at our Wood and Wellness conference on February 13 was that the health and wellbeing megatrend in the built environment offers massive potential for the trade in the future. The wellness market was worth a staggering £26bn in 2018.

The conference shared an update on global research into links between wood and wellness. The clear message is there are connections between them, and evidence for “wood preference”, as coined by BRE research director Ed Suttie.

There aren’t many products for building interiors and visible structures that can connect people with nature like wood can.

But despite this, wood products aren’t really yet being specified for health and well-being reasons.

This is something the timber industry needs to jump all over and work hard on, not assume that it will just happen. The potential benefits for timber could be enormous if a united effort is made on this topic. More UK research is needed and cross-industry working.

At TTJ we were really encouraged at people’s feedback from the conference and the subject is definitely something we will be pursuing in the future.

On another note, we’re now launching the TTJ Awards 2019. The big news is that we will be introducing a digital voting system in the coming weeks for our voted categories. Companies will have the ability to promote this to their customer base and ensure the widest possible reach.