There has been a major shift in the materials sector as specifiers select new products to reflect the ongoing impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. According to James Latham, there was a noticeable difference in sales and enquiries for certain product lines in 2020 when compared with previous years.
The most significant was a 249% increase in sales of thermoplastic laminates. The leading product for this was Kydex, with Lathams supplying more than 28,700 square metres of sheeting into the construction sector. Initially, orders were for the manufacturing of furniture for NHS Nightingale hospitals, including overbed tables and IPS units. However, even after this spike, Kydex sales remained strong as it is specified for other projects where hygiene and durability are essential.
While smaller percentage increases, a similar trend was replicated in Compact Grade Laminates (18%), which is often used in washrooms and other areas that require robust, moisture resistant protection, and Melamine Faced Chipboard (MFC), which saw a 23% rise. The latter included a number of products with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, from brands including Egger, Abet, Kronospan and Xylocleaf.
While it seems natural to expect this from products related to health and hygiene, with acrylic sneeze guards and protective screens also in demand, there has been an upturn in a wider range of lines too.
For example, the MFC increase can also be attributed to people spending money to adapt their homes, with 86% of adults moving to remote working during the first lockdown. This created demand both for home offices and for better living spaces, with travel off the agenda for many during the holiday season.
Stuart Devoil, Group Marketing Manager at Lathams, said: “We had a big upturn in orders right at the start of the pandemic as we supplied materials to help with the development of the NHS Nightingale hospitals. This included temporary flooring, and materials for furniture, signage and medical units.
“After this, enquiries moved towards products that could help make spaces Covid-secure, with retail, hospitality and office sectors all adapting their interiors to support social distancing measures.
“As lockdown continued spend moved towards a more domestic focus. For example, we’ve seen an increase in kitchen, bedroom and bathroom renovations in lieu of travel and leisure spend and investment in new home offices.”
The change in requirements experienced during 2020 has also led to some shortages. The supply of High Pressure Laminates has been particularly difficult to come by for example, with many manufacturers facing a heavy order backlog. This had created vastly extended lead times.
“There has been a natural rebalancing in the products that we stock, especially with the increased focus on safer spaces,” Stuart added. “As we move into 2021, these materials are likely to remain high on the wish-list for many contractors, manufacturers and specifiers. However, it won’t be too long before we see the focus shift back towards outdoor spaces. That will see products like cladding and decking back on the agenda as people continue to enhance their spaces at home.”
Lathams is celebrating some of these high-performing products with a new animated character, d.zen. Find out more at www.lathamtimber.co.uk/newkid