In one of our recent blogs entitled “Wood Displays are Trending,” we discussed some of the underlying forces at work behind the growing trend toward wood displays while also providing some examples of high-impact retail wood displays. The primary key drivers we identified behind the trend toward wood displays were generally focused on the demand side of the equation. That is, display buyers are increasingly requesting wood displays to merchandise natural, healthy, eco-friendly and “authentic” products. In addition to demand-side forces at work, there are supply-driven forces at work that are helping to fuel the growth in wood displays. We’ll tackle one supply-side force in today’s blog: the rapidly growing supply of beetle kill pine. The size and growth of beetle kill pine wood supply could possibly be the next big idea in point of purchase design.
Over the last 15-20 years, one of North America’s greatest environmental disasters has been quietly unfolding before our eyes. An invasive species of the Mountain Pine Beetle has destroyed millions of acres of pine forests and billions of trees in the Western United States, Mexico, and British Columbia. Some experts estimate that 80% of the pine forests in North America have been destroyed to date.
More recently, pine trees in the Sierra Nevada have been dying off at an alarming rate with estimates of 26 million trees lost in just the last 8 months. Aggressive bark beetles, a severe drought and unusually hot temperatures have combine to devastate large swaths of pine trees in the Sierra Nevada. Experts estimate that since 2010 at least 66 million trees have been lost with more to come before year’s end.
Mountain Pine Beetles attack pine trees by burrowing into a tree and laying eggs under the bark.
The eggs hatch into larvae, which block water flow and cut off nutrients, killing the tree and leaving behind a fungus, which assists the beetles in killing the trees while staining the wood in inky streaks that range from grayish-blue to indigo.
Once the tree is infested, it can’t be saved. To stop the infestation, large portions of these forests are being cut down. The beetle kill epidemic is one of the largest environmental disasters ever experienced in North America because of its downstream effects on the environment with respect to issues such as the impact on CO2 absorption, water resource management, and biodiversity.
Much of the beetle kill wood goes to landfills. There is an opportunity to repurpose this wood for retail displays since its structural integrity remains sound for at least 8-10 years. For retailers and brands, using beetle kill wood for POP displays is a better environmental story than using FSC certified wood since no healthy trees are cut down. Blue stained beetle kill pine looks more gray or aged and commands a higher price, but regular beetle kill often contains some blue stain streaking and is very competitively priced. We expect the supply of beetle kill pine to be available for years based on the magnitude of the current epidemic, and we think it will become increasingly popular in the world of retail displays. The pictures below are just a few examples of beetle kill pine used for various furniture and décor applications.