American Cherry – no exception to fashion cycles

The hardwood business is like the fashion business. We consume hardwoods for two reasons – performance and personality.

We choose hardwoods first because they are fit for many purposes. They perform in strength, durability and machinability; like clothes perform for warmth or coolness or resistance to bad weather. Second we use hardwoods simply because we like them.  We like the look of them, for their grain or colour like Cherry; just like we choose clothes for visual effect or camouflage or contrast.  As with clothes so it is with hardwoods. They follow fashion, in cycles and trends according to traditional or contemporary design, which means individual species can be ‘in’ and ‘out’ of fashion.   Cherry is no exception. Not long ago Cherry (American forest Cherry, Prunus serotina) was the ‘in-thing’, highly fashionable with designers and consumers all over the world for its warm colour and high finish. That coincided with a trend for red-coloured hardwoods, somewhere between the cycles of unstained ‘blonde’ hardwoods, like Maple and Ash, and the more recent fashion for dark stained Oaks, or dark woods like Walnut.  Recently we have not seen Cherry in fashion and the price of Cherry reduced from its peak.

There has been the usual volatility in many American hardwood prices, as always caused by changes in supply and demand, weather patterns and by the ups and downs of fashion. The price of Cherry in recent years has been less volatile because the supply and demand has been quite stable; and many forest owners knowing its real value have been prepared to just let it grow. Incidentally, Cherry is relatively short-lived with a rotation of about 50-60 years, so forest owners have to wait less time to harvest Cherry than many other hardwood species such as Oaks. Most markets in Asia are now showing signs of a real fashion back to Cherry, and meanwhile plenty of it has been growing in the forests of the eastern United States since its last high fashion cycle.

There is no shortage of American Cherry (Prunus serotina) growing in the forests of the eastern United States.  The total standing inventory of all U.S. hardwood species was measured by the U.S. Forest Service at over 11,000 million cubic metres in 2007, of which approximately 2% was estimated to be Cherry.  So an approximate estimate of the available standing trees of Cherry was at least 220 million cubic metres.