Volume 46, Issue 1 - January/February 2007

Tracking Millwork Prices
Data Submissions Swell as Non-Member Manufacturers Want In
by Kellie Schroeder

“Throw out the high. Ditch the low. Average the middle.” This has been an ongoing mantra in 2006. The Wood Moulding & Millwork Producers Association (WMMPA) reinstated the WM® Price Index Report (WPIR) last January, and I’ve been murmuring this phrase in my sleep ever since. 

The original price index ceased to exist in 1994, with spot checks on the market in 1995 and complete cessation of reporting in 1996. The reason behind its ultimate demise was the price report was too labor intensive to produce—on both sides of the report. The manufacturers were faxing or mailing in their invoices bi-weekly while two of the WM® staff busily added up each and every line of every invoice to produce the Barometer and Price Volume Report.

Resurrecting the Report
Late in 2005, the WMMPA membership decided to resurrect the price report, but on new terms. The request was for something quick and easy, without all of the hassles of the old manner to avoid it becoming a rotten egg as well. The consensus was that a weekly or bi-weekly report was unnecessary, but a 3- to 4-week snapshot of the market would be ideal. 

A quick survey of the membership resulted in a handful of WM profiles in solid, finger-joint and medium-density fiberboard (MDF) being selected as the most popular across all regions. (PVC manufacturers do not be dismayed. A PVC tracking section will be added to the report in 2007 as more PVC moulding manufacturers join or contact the WMMPA.) Finally, the reporting was to take place electronically on a simple one-page form.

The new WPIR hatched from its shell in late December 2005 and began scratching the ground in January 2006. The first two months were devoted to working out the kinks; manufacturers unfamiliar with attaching and sending files via e-mail struggled while I sorted through the credible data submissions versus the chicken feed sent in to overstate prices. 

Trouble with a Capital “T”
The new WPIR was growing feathers, but in all of the wrong places. I had trouble with a capital “T” staring back at me when trying to compile the report. First, the pricing was all over the place; interpretation of what was being asked was skewing the numbers. Second, I had low and/or excessively late submissions. Third, I came to realize that half of my members were unaware of the new price report due to poor advertisement of this new tool. And worst yet, those who were aware of the WPIR (but were still not reporting) had concerns regarding confidentiality of their company’s price information. 

Seeking focused guidance from Sierra Pacific’s Dan Wolter, Arauco Wood Product’s Mark Young, Contact Lumber’s Jim Snodgrass, Sunset Moulding’s Mark Westlake, and WMMPA president Craig Young of TLC Mouldings, the WPIR was refined into a usable tool. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge Yuba River Moulding & Millwork’s Damon Munsee for countless minutes of phone time (ongoing) answering general questions regarding the reporting form, its layout and overall usefulness. 

Some Assistance, Please
Manufacturers may be assured all price data submitted to the WMMPA office is incorporated into the WPIR and then destroyed. If the data is submitted electronically, the file is permanently deleted from the database. If the data is faxed into the WM® office, the fax is shredded. In addition, I am the only person within the WM® office inputting the data into the report and then sending it out to the participants. 
What do you get for ten minutes of your time? Two pricing reports broken out as a Domestic Report and Offshore Report. The Domestic Report includes data submitted by manufacturers located in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The Offshore Report incorporates data from Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru, China and Spain.

This fall, the number of manufacturers reporting into the WPIR swelled to new heights. Non-member moulding and millwork manufacturers were finding out about the new index and they wanted in, especially when they were told about the dual Domestic and Offshore reports. With non-member participation, the WPIR met its expectations in all areas save one. The one area of the index that is currently lacking is offshore MDF tracking. There is much recruiting work to be done in order to get offshore MDF manufacturers to submit their pricing to the WM office with complete confidence, but I’m optimistic we will overcome this obstacle in the near future. 

If you are interested in participating in the WPIR, please contact me at wmmpa@aol.com. Or, there is another idea. The WMMPA will be reviewing the first year of the index at our upcoming Winter Business Meeting, being held at the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort in Destin, Fla. March 14-17, 2007. If you are a manufacturer of moulding and millwork and would like to join us in Destin to discuss the Index or market in general, give me a call at 530/661-9591. All moulding and millwork manufacturers are welcome whether your products are produced in PVC, MDF or wood. Get yourself to a WM® meeting; we want to talk to you.

Kellie Schroeder is executive vice president of the Wood Moulding and Millwork Producers Association

© Copyright 2007 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.