2020 in Numbers

2020 in Statistics


With the 2020 statistics uploaded and accessible on our interactive Statistics Dashboard, Nick Moore looks into the numbers and the year that was, following on from our recent Market Update.

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Looking back, the year 2020 was always going to be defined by the global pandemic.

You may prefer not to – but cast your mind back to April and May 2020.

The economy was shut. The real horror of exponentially rising infections and deaths resulted in draconian restrictions of wartime proportions.

Without available vaccines, the only measure of safety was to stay at home.

Many industries were predicting that 2020 would be the worst year on record. Companies feared financial loss or ruin while individuals were braced for widespread job losses.

In common with virtually every other industry in the UK, a regular tale among timber companies was of sales ‘falling off the cliff’.

Take a look at the Statistics Dashboard for April and May 2020 for softwood imports (which account for around 60% of all wood products imports).

For softwood imports in April 2020, volume was around 40% below that in a normal year. For hardwood imports in May 2020, volume was nearly 60% below the norm. Panel products fared little better, lower by around 36%.

Then something rather remarkable happened; in the timber industry anyway.

Demand for timber products, especially for home and garden improvement and maintenance rocketed.

A clear re-direction of disposable income away from hospitality and service industries (pubs, clubs, restaurants, shops and sporting venues) and from travel (commuting, holidays, family and social visits) to home-centred activities was taking place.

Timber suppliers reported an upsurge in demand that was, at times, difficult to manage.

Converts to DIY and the professional tradesman provided the impetus behind the strong recovery of timber imports which, consulting the Statistics Dashboard once more, saw a return to more normal levels by the summer months, but volumes continued to soar in the final quarter of 2020.

Volumes of all timber and panels were higher in Q4 2020 over Q4 2019 by 40% with softwood imports alone, 60% above the previous year.

The weak, historically low volumes of April and May were replaced by a tidal wave of demand for timber products during the remainder of 2020.

Few would have believed in the dark days of the spring of 2020 that volumes would recover to the extent that happened, let alone exceed the volumes of the previous year, but this did, for softwood imports and also for imports of OSB. Other products fell a little short of the volumes of a year earlier, but still participated in a recovery that few predicted.

Take another look at the Statistics Dashboard to see the actual volumes of these products during 2020 and how they compare to previous years and also where these products were sourced.

Country by country breakdowns over the past few years highlight the great diversity of wood products available and global nature of supply into the UK.

Click on the link to dive into the wealth of information about this vibrant industry.

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