In this issue of TTJ we have both news stories, market reports and Sector Focus reports which clearly show in both figures and commentary the overall lower demand situation facing the wood product industries.

The Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) shows that total merchant value sales in Q4 2023 were -5.7% down compared to Q4 2022, with volumes falling -12% and prices rising +7.1%. The three largest categories all sold less: landscaping (-6.7%), heavy building materials (-7.3%) and timber and joinery products (-10.3%).

In the kitchen sector, a massive user of wood products, market research firm JKMR predicts a “substantial fall in the number of kitchen installations during 2023, with a currently projected decline of 10.25% on 2022 levels, putting installations back below 1.15 million, just above 2015 levels”.

But clearly people who have money and who are generally looking at the luxury end of things – whether it be kitchens, decking or whatever – are less impacted and still spending money.

One of the featured companies in our Kitchens Sector Focus is Naked Kitchens, which says it is “having a storming time” and going against the grain in the kitchen market.

In the last three years Naked has invested £3m in new technology and has boosted the workforce by 30% in the past year.

Founder Jamie Everett cites Kung Fu Panda as a business influence and used a real vintage fighter jet within a kitchen in the company’s advertising. Clearly, his is a non-standard approach but it is yielding dividends.

Mr Everett believes success in the market today is about reinforcing a confidence in buyers that they have made the right decision in installing a Naked Kitchen, that it’s something special.

He says promoting a bog-standard list of product features is not enough. Giving buyers something on a more charismatic level is needed. Any company without a well-defined position in their segment is “facing a lot of stress”, he adds.

Likewise, WPC decking supplier Composite Prime bucked the trend in 2023 by reporting substantial growth and recovering the decline seen in 2022.

Eschewing a low-value mentality, it has focused on product development and branding, targeting buyers who have money to spend.

Marketing your product for the individual with money to spend is important, it says, with the product and brand being more important than the price point.

“It’s not all doom and gloom, we are selling a luxury product,” it said.