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The BWF CERTIFIRE Fire Door & Doorset Scheme Quarterly Trends Report

Strong Expectations for Timber Fire Door Sales

"It looks like the fire door manufacturers are taking more notice of the numbers than the headlines", comments Richard Lambert, Director of the British Woodworking Federation. "No one questions the fact that things are much tighter in the construction sector than a year ago, but equally everyone sees that sales are not falling and there are strong prospects that further opportunities will emerge during the course of this year.

"Much of the optimism depends on Government delivering on its spending and investment plans. Building and refurbishing schools, hospitals and other public buildings means a continuing need for fire doors. The planned investment in social housing is likely to take the form of blocks of flats, which require more fire doors than single dwellings. We can see where the orders are likely to come from, but as always with Government, there is a lag between announcing the programme and the projects coming through. The fall in construction output towards the end of last year was largely due to the delay in Government building projects picking up again after the General Election, and while Ministers and civil servants will want to avoid being accused of holding back, you can never tell what political events are waiting round the corner to throw plans off-track.

"Perhaps the most surprising result of this quarter's survey is that the trend in rising costs seems to be turning. Whether that will continue in the face of the recent energy price rises, which a re undoubtedly having a serious effect on all manufacturing sectors, remains to be seen."

The latest timber fire door survey shows that manufacturers continue to report better figures. The survey assesses the timber fire door market in terms of the percentage of manufacturers experiencing a particular business trend (eg a sales rise) over those experiencing the opposite, expressed as a net balance. On this basis, a net 8% of manufacturers sold more timber fire doors in the three months October - December 2005 compared with the previous quarter (chart 1). Of those reporting growth, most (88%) saw increases of 10% or more.

Although a small balance of manufacturers increased sales of timber fire doors compared with the previous three months, significantly more reported a rise year-on-year. A net 58% saw sales up in October - December 2005 compared with the same period in 2004 (chart 1).

Looking ahead, expectations for sales growth are strong with a net 58% of manufacturers forecasting better sales in January to March 2006 compared with October to December 2005 (chart 2). Few are anticipating a fall. Manufacturers are feeling much more positive and regaining a level of optimism shown in previous surveys (chart 2).

Similarly, a net 63% of manufacturers expect to sell more timber fire doors in January to March 2006 compared with the same period in 2005 (chart 2), with few forecasting a drop.

In view of the above, on balance 40% of manufacturers are more postive now about the overall prospects for the timber fire door market than three months ago. This compares with 17% in last quarter's survey (chart 3).

"Part of government initiative to increase and sustain student population is to build prime student accomodation. we have seen an increase in demand for fire doors within this sector which I estimate will continue over the next 12 months in our area.

"The new legislation on fire safety which is due out in April 2006 will also influence and increase market demand as the onus will be on the property owner to carry out fire risk assessments, instead of the fire authorities."

Mr Mark Ley, Buyer
Phillips Joinery Ltd., Derbyshire

Orders for timber fire doors were also up with a net 24% reporting a rise compared with three months ago (chart 4).

A net 16% of manufacturers put up prices compared with three months ago (chart 5). But on balance 36% of manufacturers reported a rise in purchase costs of materials (chart 5). However, the number of manufacturers affected by rising costs is trending down as shown in recent surveys.

Overall, 36% of manufacturers are currently working at capacity (chart 6), but 68% of manufacturers have the capcity to produce more timber fire doors (chart 7).

The three main problems facing manufacturers in October to December 2005 were price cutting (52%), lack of skilled staff (48%) and supplier price rises (36%). As in last quarter's survey, the single biggest problem affecting manufacturers over the period was lack of skilled staff, mentioned by 24% of firms (chart 8).

Ninety per cent of timber fire doors sold this quarter through manufacturers were internal doors. Ten per cent were external doors.

Timber fire doors sold in last 12 monthsMerchants' % of fire doors salesManufacturers' % of fire doors sales
By type of Fire Door:
Flush doors70%90%73%73%
Panel doors17%5%15%26%
Die formed doors6%0%5%1%
Laminated timber cored flush doors6%4%5%0%
All Timber Fire Doors78%22%90%10%

Thirth-six per cent of timber fire doors sold in the last 12 months were sold as fire door sets. Most manufacturers (76%) continue to sell fire door frames and 72% supply additional components ie fittings for fire doors. It is reassuring to see that most manufacturers (84%) advise customers which components are required for timber fire doors.

Merchant Sales & Confidence

A net 13% of merchants sold more timber fire doors in the three months October to December compared with July to September. Of those reporting a rise, a high percentage (65%) continue to report increases of 10% or more. A balance of 36% of merchants also sold more timber fire doors in the last three months compared with the same period in 2004.

Looking ahead, merchants are positive. A net 43% expect to sell more timber fire doors in January to March 2006 compared with October to December 2005. Confidence levels are also up with a net 28% of merchants more optimistic now about the overall prospects for the timber fire door market than three months ago.

The Timber Fire Doors Report, a quarterly trends survey, is produced by Michael Rigby Associates, and sponsored by the BWF-CERTIFIRE Fire Door and Doorset Scheme in conjunction with Timber Trades Journal. The aim is to keep a finger on the timber fire doors' market pulse, and to view manufacturers' and merchants' expectations of market movements.

The survey covers a representative sample of timber fire door manufacturers as well as 100 timber and builders merchants. Telephone interviews took place between the 3rd-18th January 2006 across a balanced spread of size of firm and geographical area. Numbers employed was used as an indication of company size.

For survey details call Lucia Di Stazio on 01453 521621.

© Copyright BWF and Michael Rigby Associates 2006

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