Ligna's return a bellwether for investment sentiment

28 June 2023

As this issue was going to press I was preparing to travel to the Ligna exhibition in Hannover – the world’s largest woodworking technology fair.

The event, which hasn’t been held for four years now due to the interruption of the Covid pandemic, is a bellwether of investment sentiment and confidence in the timber sector.

The lunchtime flight from Heathrow to Hannover is usually like a who’s who of the UK timber industry – be they sawmillers, structural timber system fabricators, joinery companies, fencing manufacturers, merchants or others with machinery and technology needs.

Organisers are expecting it to be a bumper event, with four years’ worth of innovation on show due to the long gap from the last event.

To be beyond the virtual conferences and exhibitions and be on the physical Hannover fairgrounds again is surely a reinforcement of the fact that the Covid years are truly behind us.

In this issue our market updates include a look at the fencing and pallets sector. We find that the weather, the economy and a post-lockdown lull are conspiring to make the fencing market quieter than usual.

Easter usually marks the point where the fencing season picks up but this year it didn’t really get going.

Added to that, it’s only 18 months or so since the fencing frenzy of Covid lockdowns, so many people have replaced fencing or upgraded their gardens fairly recently.

While the sector is expecting business will pick up, it is predicting a steady rather than a remarkable year.

Pallet demand has fallen, especially in the construction industry and rising energy costs have severely affected pallet and packaging manufacturers.

We also focus on the joinery sector in this issue. Companies we spoke to report some weakening in the large housebuilder/developer market but more resilience in the high-end and self-build sectors.

The closure of the JELD-WEN factory in Melton Mowbray last year also seems to have opened up some business opportunities for other market players.

And there is also some repositioning, with one company reporting it has been focusing more on social housing, education and commercial work.

It would be impossible not to mention TTBS CEO Ivan Savage’s retirement. It was a privilege to be at the TTBS AGM recently, where he was honoured after 62 years unbroken service in the timber trade, the latter spent at the helm of the timber trades’ own charity.

Many will remember meeting Ivan at fund-raising events, meetings and dinners across the trade over the years. I’m sure hundreds of people out there will be very thankful for Ivan’s hard work.

Last but not least, TTJ is marking its 150th anniversary with a special celebration issue in the next edition. We’re delighted to reach this milestone and plan a special celebration at the TTJ Awards in September. Don’t miss it!