Solid wood construction can add interest When consumers see solid lumber construction, many see it as having superior attributes in strength and durability Shops and factories in the United States making cabinets, furniture and millwork are finding marketing a challenge in the current economic downturn. U.S. consumers are spending a lower percentage of their income on furniture than occurred during the good times of the 1950s and 1960s that folks older than 50 can well remember.
For household furniture, the drop has been from about 4 percent to less than 1 percent. Cabinets and millwork sales are related directly to home construction, so during the recent boom their demand increased, while in recession their demand dropped.
The current recession is likely to impact for a long time the housing demand that relates to all wood products manufacturing and perhaps demand will be slow for a long time. Thus manufacturers of valueadded wood products need to think about how to better get the attention of U.S. consumers in order to maintain and perhaps grow sales.
The idea presented here is to use solid lumber construction to add interesting features that can turn into a higher level of excitement that might motivate
U. S. consumers to purchase products made by domestic wood products manufacturers.
Uniqueness of solid lumber construction Solid lumber construction is not the most common method around the world for many value-added wood products.
Most of the case goods manufactured in Asia are composite panel products including most imported case goods furniture. In Europe, solid lumber construction is not common, except for chairs. There are so many veneer and paper-wrapped products for sale in retail outlets that when consumers see solid lumber construction they notice it as unique and many see it as having superior attributes in strength and durability. Solid lumber products are easily distinguished from veneer and paper laminate products so that marketing advantages can be gained by manufacturers who wish to find competitive advantages in the race for consumer dollars.
Perhaps the best way to show off solid lumber construction is to add design details that show depth. One Can add depth details by several ways that include:
• Showing the side and end grain of tops to reveal solid lumber construction
• Routing in grooves to show depth
• Finishing interiors of cases with the same quality finish as the exterior
• Using thick tops and end panels
• Profiles on tops and drawer fronts
• Raised panel doors and end panels Strength advantages Solid lumber has lots of strength advantages over panel construction.
Bookcases with solid lumber shelves are stronger for holding heavy loads than particleboard and veneer core plywood.
School furniture is another market niche where solid lumber construction can outlast products made with composite panel construction. Markets where wear-and-tear is an issue can find benefits in solid lumber construction.
Many shops and factories using composite panel products are not set up well for processing lumber into their type of products.
To solve this issue and to enter the solid construction product market, it may be advantageous to purchase glued-up panels from a dimension manufacturer in stock sizes in pallet quantities.
To gain an economy of scale, one can preplan a product line to be made from a small set of sizes of lumber glued panels and rip strips. Then the shop can make the products to order and eliminate stocking inventory. The best prices for dimension products come when buying in pallets quantities for each size.
Managing inventory dollars If a shop purchased a truckload of dimension panels and rip strips at $40,000 and reordered them when needed, the likely sales would be in the order of $120,000 per truckload and the raw inventory investment would be maintained at about $60,000 or less. If the shop produced at $120,000 monthly (one inventory turn), then the annual sales would be $1.44 million and the raw material investment would represent about only about 4 percent of annual sales.
In the Eastern U.S., we have a large number of minor hardwood species where even the upper grades are being processed into industrial uses like pallets and railroad ties at low prices relative to the prices being paid for premium species like hard maple and cherry. These species include wormy red maple, sweet gum, black gum, tupelo, beech, sycamore and hackberry. In the hands of a good finisher these species can make very high-quality wood products at prices that can compete with composite panel products.
Shops and factories making cabinets, furniture and millwork can attract the attention of buyers by using solid lumber construction that stands out as superior construction and durability.
In this recessionary market, one can lower material costs using minor species Eastern hardwoods and buying in pallet quantities by the truckload.