Reflecting on 2018, looking ahead to 2019: A New Year’s message from TTF President Charles Hopping
This blog post is by TTF President Charles Hopping
I’d like to start by wishing our members all the very best for a year which looks to have a few twists, turns, obstacles and other surprises in store.
The ongoing Brexit saga is likely to continue to depress markets, currencies and individuals for some time to come. As our MD has already noted, the panto season may be over, but the farce continues —> https://ttf.co.uk/panto-season-over-but-political-farce-continues/
At the time of writing we are on the brink of the first Parliamentary vote on the Prime Minister’s withdrawal deal. I say the first, as it looks likely that we will see several attempts, or several iterations of the same vote before we actually get any progress. For all the rhetoric, and numerous changes of ministerial faces, the future still seems unclear and uncertain.
So, what is the TTF doing to prepare for the year ahead?
Well, first and foremost we are changing the structure of the Federation to have less talk and more action. The large, over-arching product committees – NSD, NPPD, NHD – which formerly met each quarter, will now be scaled back to two meetings and one conference each per year.
This is not to take away from their importance, but rather to allow us to develop market facing working groups on areas of high risk or opportunity for our members to help them sell product. If the market is looking grim, we want to make sure that timber products remain at the forefront of buyers’ minds.
Each of these working groups will be focused on producing guidance and specification advice to help our members get their products into application. In many ways, this is an extension of the projects already started within NPPD and NSD over Chinese plywood and preservative treatment respectively.
The first set of working groups includes:
- Cladding: a huge area of timber sales, and one negatively impacted after the Grenfell disaster. This sector cuts across softwood, hardwood and panel product sectors, and has so much potential as interior and exterior surface design. We will invite members from across all divisions to participate and start putting the positive message back into cladding.
- Flooring: one of the biggest areas of timber sales, yet something often overlooked in TTF activity. We aim to work with the leading importers and distributors to develop guidance and promotional material about the benefits of timber flooring, as well as developing guidance to avoid the risks associated with goods produced using tropical species in far-east processing zones.
- Engineered Wood Products: increasingly this is an area our members say has the greatest growth, or certainly the greatest potential for growth. Again, this is something that cuts across softwood, hardwood and panels as well as innovative modified products. Merchants are stocking more engineered or laminated products and builders are learning to see the benefits of using these in application for structural and joinery purposes. We want to give them all the help we can to see this sector grow.
To complement these initiatives, we will be putting a lot more energy into marketing, PR and publications. As many of you know, TTF is already producing a number of successful supplements for the Merchant sector. This year we are extending that further into the Builder, Joinery and Shopfitting sectors, as well as developing our own online initiative aimed at architects and designers: TIMBERWORKS —> https://ttf.co.uk/latest/timber-works/
These publicity projects will help promote all of the work we do in the various product forums.
Beyond this, we will keep working with our supply chain partners in the CTI Fire project, which should see results toward Q2 this year.
Continuing with the theme of sales, we will be launching the new “TTF Foundation in Sales Management” course in Q2. To ensure a good take up and help kick-start this valuable initiative, TTF will be sponsoring one sales student from each regional association to take part. The course will take between six to nine months to complete and full details will be released in the next few weeks.
In addition, we will of course, continue to produce and host market leading conferences and market data for all of our divisional groups. Following the success of the European Oak conference for the Hardwood division last year, we will be producing a one-day African Hardwood conference for 2019.
Of course, we will be starting the year on March 6th with the annual UK Softwood Conference – https://ttf.co.uk/the-uk-softwood-conference-2019/ – ahead of our annual dinner – https://ttf.co.uk/the-timber-trade-federation-annual-dinner-2019/, for which we would like to thank the good folk of James Latham for their sponsorship. This year we are pleased to welcome back, Olle Berg from Setra to give an overview of softwood demand around the world and set the scene for the morning’s presentations.
And, I am sure, the dreaded Brexit will again be a common theme of market discussions.
So, I would like to end by repeating that I wish you all the best for the year ahead, and hope that we can provide enough material to help you navigate the twists and turns ahead.
Happy New Year.