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January/February 2004

Moulding the Future

Predictions for 2004
What Will This Year Hold for the Moulding Market?

by Kellie A. Schroeder

I used to think a person would have to possess a minimum of two of these three talents and consult at least one otherworldly venue in order to predict the moulding market each year. No longer do I operate under this assumption. 

I have come to realize that one can predict a great many things related to the moulding market without experiencing a so-called inner flurry of wisdom that magically reveals the future in a twinkling of the eye. All you really need to make a prediction is enough gumption to make a statement and then to have one’s readership possess extremely short memories. 

Kidding aside, to make my 2004 predictions this year I gathered together historical data, queried the Wood Moulding & Millwork Producers Association (WMMPA) membership, read up on the housing market, skimmed articles put out by economy gurus and whispered one really long prayer. That being said, I will now sum up 2003 and then paint a picture of 2004 for you. 

A Look at 2003
In 2003, moulding manufacturers saw tremendous volumes of mouldings entering into the distribution channels with little to no margins. Offshore producers once again flooded the domestic market, which was readily apparent throughout the early summer and into the late fall.

There was an over-production of finger-joint mouldings that killed off any hopes of making a buck last year. Multi-density fiberboard (MDF) mouldings continued to take marketshare away from finger joint, and solid lineal mouldings fell into a complete downward spiral. In a nutshell, the moulding manufacturers were busy, but did not see any reward for their efforts in 2003. And, the year ended with moulding manufacturers questioning their position in the food chain. 

Domestic Producers Predicted to Get Tough
On to the future, I predict the moulding market will stay brisk for 2004 as it was in 2003. I also predict that you will see an insurrection by domestic producers when it comes to moulding pricing—they were bullied endlessly last year and enough is enough. At the insistence of their sales managers, more moulding salespeople will put on their boxing gloves and hold firm this year. I predict that more manufacturers will question why their piece of the pie is just a sliver when others sitting at the distribution table have thick wedges, bringing disarray as to how we do business in the future. 

You will see MDF manufacturers lead a more visible campaign of their products to continue their trek up Marketshare Mountain. If production can be held to demand, you will see the finger-joint market show a profit for those manufacturers still alive after last year. As for solid lineal mouldings, those manufacturers will either make or break their future by how they approach the first two quarters of 2004. The buzz on the street is that a perception label has been attached to solid lineal mouldings by the big boxes, and unless those manufacturers can figure out how to peel it off, their products will continue to fall just outside of the radar. I offer a glimmer of hope to the solids, though; a very large wholesaler closed 2003 with solids being the only profitable millwork item in their inventory. A push for a better solids market was seen in December—let’s all cross our fingers those New Year wishes come true for their sake. 

And, finally, I predict the rumor mills will be running at high speed throughout the year churning out hype on who will survive, who will be profitable and the continuing folly of one single company trying to undercut and put its competitors out of business no matter what the price.

Depending on who you are, my 2004 predictions will either be uplifting or dire. But, isn’t that the way predictions go, seeing how they are kind of like sports games? There is always a lot of betting prior to the inception of the game and one side has to win while the other side has to lose. January is the beginning, folks, so there is still time to cast your bets for future success. Business was still robust at the end of 2003. If talk isn’t cheap, and what you read in the industry mags is true, supply will not exceed demand this next year and margins will find life again in the moulding realm.

Look at Your Strategic Plan
If you are a moulding manufacturer, I urge you to take advantage of the month of January. Take a hard look at your strategic business plan, review your sales data, brainstorm with your employees, talk to your fellow manufacturers and come up with your own positive predictions for 2004—and then make them happen!

A few months ago I surveyed the WMMPA membership on what they think it would take for them to be successful in 2004 and received a slew of varied answers. What caught my attention though was that the majority of the manufacturers responding had already analyzed their future and were putting the blocks in place to build the bridge to their dreams of success in 2004. What are you constructing for 2004?

Would you like to have an in-depth conversation regarding the moulding and millwork market with fellow manufacturers? Would you like to hear what the WMMPA members think of the current market? 

Then I would like to invite you to the WMMPA’s 41st Winter Business Meeting being held February 10-13, 2004, at the Amelia Island Plantation Resort on Amelia Island off the coast of Florida. Send me an e-mail at kelli@wmmpa.com or call our office at 530/661-9591, and I will send you a meeting information packet along with a special invitation to join us this winter in sunny Florida. I predict you won’t want to miss another WMMPA meeting if you attend just once!


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