LUMBERYARDS

AZEK partners with Canadian distributor

BY Brae Canlen

AZEK Building Products has announced a partnership with AFA Forest Products, a Canadian distributor of building materials. Headquartered in Bolton, Ontario, AFA serves the Canadian market through 14 locations, from Vancouver to Newfoundland.  

Although AFA will distribute AZEK’s trim, decking and other exterior building products on a national basis, McLean Lumber and Nicholson & Cates will continue to serve and distribute AZEK products regionally in Canada, said Jim Gross, VP sales for AZEK.

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Trade war begins against Chinese plywood

BY Brae Canlen

A new front opened in the trade war against China when a group of U.S. plywood manufacturers filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission. The Coalition for Fair Trade of Hardwood Plywood (CFTHP) claimed that Chinese manufacturers are “dumping” plywood on the U.S. market at unfair prices, a practice enabled by subsidies from the government of China.

The petition requests that the U.S. government investigate these alleged unfair trade practices and their harmful impact on the domestic manufacturing industry, and to apply antidumping and countervailing duties on imports of hardwood plywood from China in order to restore competitive parity in the U.S. market. According to the CFTHP announcement, the petition documents antidumping and countervailing duty margins in excess of 300%. 

Over the last several years, the share of the U.S. hardwood plywood market captured by imports from China has grown from single or low double-digits digits to about 50%, according to the CFTHP. “Chinese manufacturers receive an array of government subsidies, including their access to raw materials — logs and timber — that come from suspect or illicit sources,” said CFTHP counsel Jeff Levin. Sustainability comes at a cost, Levin points out; operating without any good forestry management practices creates an “enormous unfair advantage for Chinese manufacturers.”

“Sustainably produced and quality certified [U.S.] hardwood plywood that once earned a reasonable profit have been relegated to near-commodity status as Chinese companies ramp up production and exports to the United States, without much attention at all to quality or environmental stewardship,” Levin explained. “Price trumps all else, so it’s no wonder we consistently see the Chinese product undercutting the product made in the USA by 50% or more.”

The CFTHP petition has the support of domestic hardwood plywood manufacturers that together represent about 80% of domestic production, according to the press release. In line with regulatory timelines, the CFTHP expects a preliminary ruling and escrow deposit requirement to be implemented by spring 2013 and a final ruling and duty to be implemented by late fall 2013.

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Free advertising? An expert makes the case at PDIS

BY Ken Clark

A marketing seminar at the upcoming ProDealer Industry Summit (PDIS) is geared toward quick results.

Brian Bunt of The Empty Bin specializes in word-of-mouth marketing for lumberyards, which means in a nutshell, using happy customers to advertise for free. Giving them a reason to talk about your product or service is what all good lumberyards do; facilitating the conversations is what takes the extra effort.

The ProDealer Industry Summit, sponsored jointly by the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) and Home Channel News, will explore macroeconomic forces, as well as the everyday running of an LBM business. The Oct. 24-26 event will take place in Savannah, Ga., at the Savannah Westin.

Using examples from the building industry, Bunt will explain how to conduct a campaign that leverages lumberyard’s core customer base and identifies the business’s best “talkers.” In one case study he utilizes, it was the delivery drivers, who were given cameras to take photos of each load they dropped. Individual drivers were then graded as a motivation tool.

“It’s the delivery guys that really spread the word,” Bunt told Home Channel News. “They tell their friends and customers about the extra steps they take.” The cameras worked as a conversation starter. “It’s common for a customer to ask, ‘Why are you taking a photo?’ " he explained.

Bunt doesn’t believe in traditional methods of advertising. “We try to stress that advertising is the cost of being boring,” he said. “You’re paying someone else to talk about what you’re doing.” And in a refreshing change of pace, Bunt doesn’t push social media; he estimated that 80% of word-of-mouth marketing takes place off line.

Instead, Bunt goes in for more offbeat and innovative promotions. Windsor Mill, where Bunt works as director of marketing, put a stamp on the back of its Windsor One trim board and moldings that said, “Call Kurt for a shirt” and included a phone number. The free T-shirt offer resulted in a number of phone calls to the head of Windsor One’s customer experience department, which then led to conversations about current building projects, materials being used and so on — in other words, a foot in the door frame.

Bunt will present Oct. 25 at the 2012 PDIS event.

“At the end of the [session], they’ll be able to create a campaign the day they walk into the office on Monday,” Bunt said.

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