A Mid-Life Makeover

Patrick Laurin

The Canadian Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association (CHPVA) is going through a mid-life makeover. The CHPVA took advantage of the disruption caused by the pandemic to reflect and reinvent itself, overhauling the approach they were taking, from the big-ticket items down to the smallest details.

The pandemic created an unexpected wave of demand. Lockdown measures changed our use of space. Remote working and remote learning increased the need for more room and home office furniture, which energized the real estate, remodelling, and furniture markets to levels never seen before. Now, everybody in the industry is busy and facing challenges to meet this strong demand while respecting complex sanitary rules.

Traditionally, the association focused on updating and communicating quality standards and regulatory issues within its own industry distributors and manufacturers. Now CHPVA wants to expand its focus in promoting these products to the trendsetters, the architects, the designers, and the decorators that help people choose the look of their surroundings. The CHPVA wants to provide inspiration and information about hardwood veneer and plywood, demonstrating that wood is, in fact, the solution.

“‘Wood is the solution’ is the latest calling card to promote the membership and its products,” says Patrick Laurin, newly appointed Executive Vice-President. “Our members produce hardwood veneer and hardwood plywood used to manufacture furniture, cabinets, doors, and other architectural millwork products.”

The 63-year-old association has updated its image to go with its new goals – a new logo, new colours, and a new website for all to see the transformation. The CHPVA also plans to be more active on social media with articles and photos of wood species and various decorative hardwood plywood projects. The CHPVA is focused on expanding its message. Although still considered a traditional material, wood is unique, versatile, and timeless. Recently, science has made wood a cool raw material again. Renewable, recyclable, and with a lower carbon footprint than steel and plastic, wood can be a natural canvas of any decorative project with less impact on the environment.

The association plans to redefine its training and seminar offering to better educate designers on hardwood plywood and veneer possibilities within the industry. Most designers are accustomed to the ease of working with melamine and laminates because of all the marketing tools and samples available; it makes using hardwood plywood and veneer a more complex challenge. It is our job to provide more tools to them. Any kitchen or furniture company that does offer these options to their customers will have something over their competition. Traditionally, the organization’s goal was to train industry partners on technical aspects of hardwood plywood and veneer, like grading standards and wood characteristics. Still, the next generation of seminars will focus more on the needs of the trendsetters.

“The goal is to provide the influencers with a solid generic base of knowledge about hardwood plywood and veneer so that they are comfortable enough to recommend our products and include our materials in their projects,” says Laurin.

Still in planning mode, these sessions will be more topic-specific and shorter. They will help the participants understand the various species available, the products’ unique characteristics, and the accessibility from local, North American suppliers. Natural wood has way more possibilities depending on the finish. It’s all about showing designers the possibilities.

One of the tools CHPVA’s using to work towards this goal is the new website. A section called “Inspiration” showcases projects that used decorative hardwood plywood. This section will be regularly updated to showcase the latest projects. A complete listing and contact information about association members makes it easier to get in touch personally with experts. It also contains valuable links to other related associations and several interesting videos about wood in general. A complete online wood encyclopedia is available to help anyone choose or research a type of wood for their next project. A bookstore is currently being built on the website to offer a selection of books and various guides helpful for any woodworker, designer, or purchaser requiring a reference source. All these resources that CHPVA is putting forward are well on their way to help place the hardwood plywood and veneer industry at the forefront of design trends.

Patrick Laurin is the Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association.

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