Co-chairs of the working group John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association, said birch plywood remains an issue due to sanctions on premier birch ply sourcing country Russia. 

“With limited supplies available from Latvia and Finland, we advise speaking to plywood suppliers regarding alternatives,” they said.

The working group has described overall product availability as “good and returning to pre-Covid levels”, while some bricks, blocks, plasterboard and roofing products are occasionally still subject to disruption or allocation. Despite this, lead times for these products are now far lower than early 2022.

The availability of gas boilers and other products containing semi-conductors and electrical components remains the most problematic in terms of supply, as sub-component manufacturers operating in a highly competitive global market continue to experience restricted supply.  

Shipping lead times from the Far East are improving, though China is now experiencing rising Covid rates following the relaxation of their lockdown regulations which may lead to more bottlenecks. However, with a surplus of containers in China and container rates generally down by 80% from their peak, this is a great improvement.

The working group said price inflation for products had slightly moderated across the board in December, but looking ahead, rising energy and wage costs are expected to put significant upward pressure on prices in the New Year – in particular for energy-intensive products (such as bricks, cement, glass, insulation and plasterboard).

Most industry forecasts project further declines in demand in 2023 although some sub-sectors will fare better than others, the working group says.  With less strain on the supply chain, general product availability should have an opportunity to recover further.