Marthall News Letter Jan 2019
Firstly, everyone at Marthall would like to wish you a Happy New year and we hope you all had an enjoyable and not too stressful Christmas. So now we are heading into the depths of winter, spirits can plummet, days are short and we all feel a bit fat. I thought I’d write this newsletter so you can stick the kettle on, cosy up and enjoy a bit of a read. Or you can throw it away and just enjoy being forced to watch Dancing on Ice, whatever floats your boat.
Talking of boats that brings me onto my first topic. As many of you know some of our peeled and round material comes from the Baltics. We approached all our usual mills and some new ones with our tender enquiry for 2019. We very quickly became aware of a lack of material. We made the decision to buy our entire (estimated) years requirements up front. We requested all our mills deliver everything before Christmas to try and ensure a good level of stock to meet demand. However, there are issues with 8ft 3-4 inch peeled. There is a lack of material for 5ft6 & 6ft’s so 8ft aren’t really getting a look in at the moment by producers. We have another UK mill available for those that are desperate but the price and quality is not favourable and the lead time is not quick.
I don’t really wish to get into politics in this newsletter but as we are all aware the doom and gloom, as spun by our wonderful British media, of Brexit is looming. Most of us at Marthall feel it’s going to be a millennium bug moment. The end of the world is nigh then the clock will strike midnight and oh look the world hasn’t fallen apart and we are all still alive. So, by now some of you might be moaning and talking back to this bit of paper in your hand with your view on it but what I really want to say is that Marthall will still be here, the staff will still be here and we will be doing our upmost to continue to provide you with timber! This now leads nicely onto my next topic (I bet your loving how I’m making this letter flow).
Some of you may have seen the beautiful crafted notice displayed in several places on our counter. It is a pre-warning of price increases. Price increases that we will not be able to absorb. I can assure you these prices rises are not due to Brexit but due to a genuine shortage of logs. Log auction prices are going up and up thanks to biomass plants buying anything they can get their hands on. The larger logs used for sleepers are particularly effected. Behind the scenes there was an initial panic that rises could be as much as 20% but as time has gone on, we predict they could be somewhere between 5-10% but don’t hold me too it! We recently had a small price increase in November of 2018. We absorbed this for two weeks to allow a transitional period to take effect but with another one due that could potentially be more than 5% the new prices will be effective immediately and no quotes done before the increase will be honoured. This letter is your chance to warn your customers and plan ahead as best you can.
To try and help with the shortage on the larger logs used for sleepers we currently have a Value Sleeper available. It is treated to UC4 the same as our main sleeper stocks but its not quite as ‘pretty’, the edges are not as clean or sharp, however it is about £3 cheaper! This is a trial item and if you want it to stay please buy it.
Let me pop in a more uplifting paragraph or I don’t think you will continue reading. We now have a man dedicated to running transport. Young Dave is now on hand to answer all your transport questions and to plan in your delivery. Tighter control on this means we will fit in more deliveries. Customers who require a phone call when we are on our way will now get them. In general communications regarding transport will be better. We still cannot offer timed slots and any changes or add ons to orders must be done 48hrs beforehand, from the new year this will be strictly adhered too. This is not because we are trying to be awkward but because your order has been picked and banded and its extremely time consuming to un-band, repick and then restock the changes. Niall has now past his test and can drive the truck which means it can stay on the road when Steven is on holiday. Our delivery charges are starting to cover three quarters of the cost of running the trucks so there is a FAINT whisper of another truck. We do still get the intake of breath when we inform people of the delivery charge but remember we do not build it into the cost of our goods so those of you who collect are not being stung with a higher price.
Our new website is LIVE!!!!!!! We have been discussing a new website for a while and Emma grabbed hold of the idea and ran with it. The old website address www.marthall.net will divert you to the new site or you can use www.marthalltree.com. Try not to accidently type Marshalls tree as Tom in our office did to discover a rather good tree puller for sale. The new website contains galleries for many of our products, price lists and every so handy how too guides. These guides will help you hang a gate or calculate timbers required for a picket fence. We now have the trade price list on there too. It is password protected and you must be on our computer system to be given the password. By this we mean we have all your details on file not that you have been in a few times and purchased from us. Please give us a call and we can confirm if you are on file or if you need to be added. The public price list is on there too.
Our new shop has been up and running for a year now; I know time flies doesn’t it. In that year we have seen Emma get bigger, and she hopes smaller again, popping out the next generation of Marthall staff. Apart from babies we have also seen an uplift in sales of fixings, tools and gate furniture. We believe this is down to the fact you can now find everything easily and it is all clearly labelled. The shop is looking good thanks to Katriona the newest member of our team. If there is an item we don’t have we will always consider stocking it if we get asked for it enough so if you can’t see what your after and it’s something you would use regularly please tell us. (Apart from power tools that would be like trying to get our managing director to give up his love of busses)
Our brew machine & snacks are proving very popular as is our new loo. The new layout on the counter means you get served quicker as the staff have almost everything they need in one place. Our trollies, baskets and electronic doors are making life easier for you all too. Our foot fall has increased dramatically and our quiet times September to Jan are no longer as quiet we are still serving up to 80 people a day! These busier days means Tom no longer has the time to secretly surround Colin’s & Emma’s car with bulk bags late in the afternoon in revenge for a kick me sign placed onto his back. And yes, we had locked up, set the alarm shut away the stacker trucks & it was raining when we walked out to be greeted with this wonderful prank. Honestly its can be like a sitcom at times! I digress…
Our open day event was such a success we have decided to run it every year. The free food and special offers went down very well and I think you all preferred it over attempting to get a free pencil from Emma at the counter! Anyone who has manged that we salute you!
There have been discussions on a quick till system for our busiest days/hours. It would mean anyone who has pre-ordered and paid/placed their order on account can collect their yard ticket very quickly. However, no changes to the order will be permitted at the quick till as that defeats the idea of doing it. We would welcome your views on this as it’s a 50/50 split on doing this.
We have also discussed changing our hours of work in summer and winter. Earlier starts in the summer but an earlier close in the winter. A decision will be made before winter 2019 in preparation for the following year.
Alan is now semi-retired and working three days per week with Tom joining him in the aggregates department and running it alongside him in preparation for filling his enormous shoes in a few years’ time. We will see a new face starting. Her name is Ruth and she will be joining us from Tarmac. When Alan does retire Tom will go full time into the aggregate’s office with Ruth as additional help and she will also be working on the counter.
Right back to something a little less light hearted. Timber, timber, timber as that is what we are about. We have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to find additional saw mills to provide us with square sawn timber. We currently receive about five loads from Diamond saw mills per week, some times six, but we know this is not enough. Diamonds have been with us for 25 years but have reached their cutting capacity despite putting in a brand-new feather edge line at the cost of over one million pounds just for us! This means we are now considering other mills, which is proving to be trickier than you would think. We know you all come to us because of the quality of our timber. It is cut cleaner than any other timber we have come across and we treat most of our rails for ground contact as we know a lot of them get used for gravel boards or edging boards. Emma has been in conversations with no less than seven mills. We can’t find another mill who is prepared to treat rails or posts to UC4 unless they are incised or they are redwood. We are very aware that an incised rail or post is not as aesthetically pleasing and redwood is expensive. This means we are not willing to compromise on incised timbers that we know are used in garden applications such as 100 x 100. We have decided to trial the option of motorway/paddock posts with incising as we believe on most occasions’ the aesthetics are less important. Many mills cannot cut the 4ww on their gate posts properly so that’s gate posts out. Finally, most are not prepared to offer any sort of warranty against their timber, and those that are want them incised or redwood. Some offer a fifteen-year life expectancy but back it up with no warranty what so ever, kind of pointless in our eyes. We even found this to be the case with thirty-five-year life and creosoted. A life expectancy with absolutely no back up for us, and ultimately you, just seems a bit ridiculous. So, let’s say, if it rots after a hypothetical five years, they will simply tell us to get lost. It leads us to question offering any sort of warranty at all. We will of course continue to do so while we still can but I think it reveals the issues the timber industry as a whole is facing. It shows why so many people are losing confidence in using timber for many applications or contractors offering any guarantees against rot and insect attack when supplying and quoting customers and their projects.
So far, we have bought in some of our rails treated for above ground use instead. We have been very selective choosing rails we believe are least likely to be used in contact with the ground. These items will be marked UC3 in our new price list. Changing these lines over to a new mill will ease the pressure on Diamond’s. They come from the same mill our sleepers are cut from, which as you know are some of the best fencing grade sleepers around. I think this is also a great reflection on the quality of Diamonds timber and how spoilt we all are to have it. If you are desperate for the Diamonds rails they will have to be ordered in and a lead time of at least two weeks will apply.
Over the coming months you will probably experience extended lead times for special cut items as demand increases. This is normally between the months of March and November so please allow extra time if you require these.
Our plans for 2019 also include tarmacking the rest of the yard, discontinuing timber lines and products that are slow movers which in turn will allow more room for new lines or enable us to hold more stock of faster selling lines. We have already added 3.6m x 75 x 25mm (69 x 19mm fin) lengths to our price list due to the demand for venetian style fencing. Venetian fencing is extremely popular. Last year we bought in a 2 x 1 smooth baton to offer a cheaper alternative to the traditional red cedar. This one timber line has sold almost 13,000 lengths last year and this is set to increase in 2019. Our 4 x 1 smooth is proving almost as popular. Emma hopes to increase the stocks of sheet material, she has already started this process by introducing OSB 3 board and 9mm plywood.
I do hope this newsletter has enabled you to get a greater insight in to what is going on behind the scenes not just at Marthall but in the timber industry as a whole. We strive every day to do the best we can and keep you all working. We know some of our decisions won’t please everyone but we aim to keep the majority happy and we really do try very hard to listen to everyone’s opinions and take them into account where possible. We hope you enjoy using the new website and that 2019 is a busy and fruitful year for you and your families.
From Everyone at Marthall Tree Products