I have written in the past about the difficulties that come with buying Ipe, due to distinct seasons created by the rainy season. Additionally, there is global competition for the resource, and we have had to get more and more savvy about when we buy and how to extend our buying season in order to take best advantage of sizes that quickly become scarce.
This year the playing field was set, as it always is, but then Europe never made their first move. It seems the Euro crisis has all but killed any demand for Ipe abroad, and Brazilian mills realized that suddenly the material they had set aside for Europe wasn’t going anywhere. What is a self respecting mill to do? Ship it to the US, which has already aggressively placed orders. Of course, we were not expecting to get our full orders all at once, but rather spaced out over a period of 3-4 months like usual.
So we began to panic a bit here, realizing that our entire year’s supply of Ipe was going to be hitting the water in transit all at the same time! In a perfect world, we would have unlimited storage space, and our inventory value would not be affected by spending months sitting on the yard, but that just isn’t true. With a product like Ipe, we aren’t really concerned about the material sitting around. It’s Ipe after all, and it’s meant to be used outside, but it is hard to fight the sunlight that causes all woods to gray, unless they are treated regularly. While Ipe that basks long in the lumberyard in the the sun will still be as strong and durable as always, it was the space issue that really had us worried. I suppose we could fill the employee parking lot with Ipe and initiate a “bike to work” winter.
Somehow, I don’t think that would be good for employee morale.
But now, after the terrible damage caused along the east coast by Hurricane Sandy, many suppliers are concerned that the demand for so much Ipe to replace boardwalks and decks will not be met. Interesting how a fiscal crisis can actually benefit a natural disaster clean up. Here we were wondering where we were going to put all this decking material, and then the phones and internet became alive with inquiries. Hopefully we won’t have to worry about where to put all this material after all.
There is still a great deal of damage that needs to be resolved first, and we are heartened by some things returning to normal along the Jersey and Long Island coasts. We were not able to even get some of our deliveries in to our regular customers for a few weeks, and the supply chain really began to break down with so much devastation. Right now, many of these communities are rebuilding and shoring up for the winter, but we believe the more “cosmetic” repairs will be beginning soon. Most of the local economy in these communities is driven by tourism, and the winter months are the ideal time to renovate and repair in preparation for the crowds during the warmer months. If we can add a strong positive note to all of this, it is that when it comes time to rebuild the boardwalks, piers, and individual decks, the Ipe will be available.
Normally, we pride ourselves on being able to buy and supply Ipe all year long, but there are always times when some board sizes become very scarce. With this year’s shipping schedule, we are confident that we will be able to meet the needs of the beach communities along the east coast. Give us a call if you have questions, or submit an RFQ, and we will be happy to quote you on any order. Most of all, we pray for a fast return to normalcy for these beach side communities, and we are willing to help however we can.