Three wood-producing groups are stepping up joint and individual efforts this spring to promote natural wood decks and, they hope, stop market share increases by composite and PVC products.
"As we see the economy turning around, we want to see redwood be top of mind" among buyers, said Bob Mion, director of marketing for the California Redwood Association, expressing a view shared by advocates of Southern Pine and Western Red Cedar.
For the past year, trade groups for these three wood types have jointly sponsored the Real Outdoor Living website containing videos and brochures touting wood decks, and they jointly sponsored a press event in January at the International Builders' Show in Las Vegas. Now the site is slated to get an upgrade next month with the addition of new videos targeting building material dealers that will promote all types of wood decks.
Wood accounted for 84% of the board feet of material used to create decks in the United States in 2008, the Freedonia Group estimates. Traditionally, decks for new homes were made of wood, while composite and PVC decking was more popular as a replacement product and on upscale homes. But there are indications that trend may change.
By 2013, Freedonia predicts woods' market share will fall to 77%, while composite products' share will increase to 19.3% from 13.8% and plastic/PVC goods will account for 3.7%, up from 2.6%. Principia Partners, another consulting group that prefers to measure the market in dollar terms, says composites and plastics figured in roughly 26% of the dollars expended for decking last year, and it expects that share to hold steady in 2010, then rise later.
Such increases are making dealers and producers of natural wood products nervous. After years of being able to cite composites' and plastics' relative lack of good looks and durability, the gap between them and real wood is narrowing. Meanwhile, consumer trends toward maintenance-free living have put wood advocates on the defensive, and so they're fighting back.
Steve Crook owner of General Woodcraft Inc. in New London, Conn., did so with an opinion column on ProSales' website that in effect dismisses composites, plastics, and even treated wood as optimal decking materials in favor of the tropical hardwood that his company sells.
Meanwhile, the Canadian-based Western Red Cedar Lumber Association (WRCLA) is playing up its product's environmental qualities by publishing an assessment of cedar's environmental benefits over its life cycle. WRCLA also is promoting itself heavily to residential architects.
Mion said the California Redwood Association plans to update its website next month with a stronger emphasis on redwood's green virtues. And while the association promotes a consumer message, individual members are reaching out to their dealers, he said.
Advocates for Southern Pine have several closely related organizations on their side, including the Southern Forest Products Association, the Southern Pine Council, and SPAN--the Southern Pine Awareness Network. Pine's champions have taken a leading role in the Real Outdoor Living campaign, managed the creation of videos, and plan to issue sell sheets extolling the virtues of wood.