As 2013 draws to a close, it’s time for everybody to get out their crystal balls and try to see what the year ahead has in store. In an informal poll of key woodworking industry officials we found a generally optimistic mood about the prospects for business in 2014. Here’s some of what we are hearing.
IWF predicts growth
Since the biggest woodworking industry event in North America for 2014 will be the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta August 20-23, it seems appropriate to start with IWF officials first.
“Talking to potential exhibitors, it sounds like the industry is on a positive climb,” says Kevin Holtzclaw, IWF CEO. He says a number of exhibitors report their margins have decreased but they are seeing increased demand for their products. He says much of what happens in 2014 for the woodworking industry will depend on the health of the housing sector.
As for the show itself, Holtzclaw says, “The show is looking very good.” He says the event showed 6-percent growth in 2012, and he anticipates growth of about 10 percent for exhibit space in 2014. He is hoping that pent-up demand for automation will help drive sales. “A lot of people right-sized their companies (during the recession),” he says. “If they aren’t automated yet, they are going to be way behind.”
WMMA members positive
Officials with the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America (WMMA) are also looking for a good year in 2014. Fred Stringfellow, executive director, reports a recent survey of WMMA membership showed 75 percent of respondents reported business was up in 2013 compared to 2012. In the same survey, 58 percent expect additional gains in 2014. Fully 90 percent of the survey respondents predicted business levels would be stable or increased next year.
“Our members are pretty optimistic,” says Stringfellow. “More of our members plan to exhibit at IWF in 2014 than did in 2012.”
John Schultz, WMMA president and owner of Super Thin Saws, amplified Stringfellow’s comments. “We feel fairly bullish on our sector of the economy,” he says. Noting that much of the industry is connected to what happens in the housing industry, he acknowledged that the slower-than-hoped-for recovery in that sector affects the woodworking industry. “We’re all sort of housing related,” he says.
Looking at the specifics of machinery sales, Schultz says, “My sense is people are doing well, but they are not investing as heavily in new equipment as circumstances might indicate.”
“Another bumper year”
Looking at another part of the woodworking machinery sales, Shiraz Balolia, president and founder of Grizzly Industrial Inc., is bullish about his company’s prospects in 2014, but he acknowledges the challenge presented by the slowly recovering housing market.
“Large machinery sales are linked to new home construction, so we see that area being stagnant for the industry in general,” he says. However, when the subject turns to his company’s business in particular, Balolia is decidedly more optimistic.
“Our business is up double digits, and we continue to lead the industry due to our huge selection, low prices and outstanding customer service. 2014 should be another bumper year for us,” he says.
“Nice positive trend.”
Taking a look at the industry forecast from the finishing perspective, Bill Fiorillo, Sherwin-Williams Global Market Director for Kitchen Cabinets and Furniture, is looking forward to a good year.
“We see a nice positive trend this year,” he says. “Backlogs are decent. People have a more positive outlook. Overall, we are very positive.”
As for more specific trends to look for, Fiorillo says, “Customers are looking for innovation in products and services. They expect consistent top quality, and people want to know what the trends and top colors are.” He said Sherwin-Williams is dedicated to keeping finishers on top of those trends so they can offer cutting-edge products. “The last thing you want is an obsolete product,” he says.
He says one of the overriding trends to pay attention to is the increasing demand for environmentally responsible products, particularly in the area of finishes. “We’re looking to help people achieve their green goals,” he says, adding that Sherwin-Williams is also sensitive to helping companies meet “green” standards while still maintaining competitive prices and watching manufacturing costs.
“Full of optimism”
Since much of the cabinets and furniture that make up the majority of the woodworking industry require hardware, it’s helpful to get some information from the hardware perspective. Steve Regele, vice president of sales and marketing at Blum, says, “Since the start of 2013 there’s been an upward trend, and the market is full of optimism.”
Regele says Blum anticipates growth “in the 7-to-8-percent range” for 2014. He notes the distribution side of the business has been driving growth for the last five years. “Distributors are seeing backlogs and contractors say they expect to be busy,” he says.
Looking more specifically at hardware, Regele predicts continued growth in soft-close technology. “Blumotion (Blum’s trendsetting soft-close brand) has been widely accepted by the OEM kitchen guys,” he says. He also points to predicted success in the coming year for new drawer system and lift system hardware that Blum has launched.
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