Garden shops are experiencing a shed shortage, as demand for timber sees them struggle to keep up with the speed of sales.
A record 2.6 million cubic metres of timber was imported into the UK in the first four months of this year, which is 50 per cent more than in the same period of 2020.
However, materials have been bought up so quickly by locked-down homeowners eager to improve the look of their gardens that manufacturers are struggling to meet the demand, industry experts have warned.
Sales of timber and joinery products were 78.8 per cent greater at the beginning of 2021 compared with last year.
Argos warned their customers that they were running low on stock, with only two garden sheds available of more than 40 designs usually ready for delivery on the website.
Liam Macandrew, policy and project manager at the Timber Trade Federation, said: “Demand has been so high that it’s put a strain on supply and it hasn’t been able to keep up with demand.
“It’s unsustainable. You can’t just start cutting down more trees as you have to replace them. Manufacturers of ready-made sheds likely have enough wood, but would not be able to produce them quick enough.
“During the pandemic, people were stuck at home, had a lot of time on their hands, they weren’t going on holidays and they were saving a lot of money. So they were doing up their houses and gardens, and they absorbed a lot of the timber stock. There’s been a surge in demand.”
People went on a timber shopping spree during lockdown to build sheds, such as Shed of the Year award winner Danielle Zarb-Cousin (read more in box below)
Credit: James Linsell-Clark
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Mr Macandrew added that a “massive shortage” of vehicle drivers meant timber could be left sitting at ports for days waiting to be transported to shops and building sites.
The UK imports roughly 80 per cent of its timber, with large quantities coming from Europe, particularly the Baltics and Scandinavia.
There have been calls for the UK’s forestry industry to be strengthened in order to avoid future shortages.
If the shortages continue, it is thought that Britons could end up paying 50 per cent more for their garden sheds.
Kybotech, a leading shed manufacturer, said customers could also be left waiting months for them to be delivered.
Charles Walton, the company’s founder, said: “We’re now in the second year of timber shortages and the impact is beginning to be felt.
“We’ve had two consecutive warm winters which has meant considerably less timber being felled and resulting in a massive global shortage. Other factors have come into play too, which have compounded the problem.
“Combined, they have the potential to push up timber prices by as much as 50 per cent and at some point a proportion of that cost will be passed on to the consumer.”
Another entrant for this year's Shed of the Year contest – a back-garden bar shed
The growing interest in timber for projects such as building sheds on a budget, like this entrant for Shed of the Year has done, has put a strain on stores’ shed supplies
Credit: Tom Maddick/SWNS
Shedstore, an online retailer, said customers should expect higher prices than usual. It also said a major issue was the UK cutting down more trees than it was planting.
A spokesman said: “We’re replanting 50 per cent less trees than we did 10 years ago, which is reducing the amount of timber on the market. More and more forests are also being taken over by private companies and their owners are not willing to sell their wood, in order to drive up timber prices.
“The number of biomass power stations in the UK is also increasing and they consume vast quantities of timber to produce electricity and heat.”
The timber price index has increased by an average of 10.6 per cent a year over the past five years, according to IBISWorld.
In the past year, demand for extra garden space has also risen in response to home working becoming the norm for many employees during the pandemic.
Warm weather in northern Europe last winter has caused muddy terrain, making it difficult for heavy timber cutting and transport machinery to operate, and therefore reducing supply.