Ines Marktl of ITM Timber Merchants touches base with Timber iQ, offering a glimpse into the South African timber sector through a fresh pair of eyes.

Efficiency, customer care, accountability, professionalism and cooperation are the words to describe the values of ITM Timber Merchants, the Cape Town-based timber suppliers of imported timber and timber products.

Thomas Marktl, managing director, first started a high end market kitchen and cupboards business with 30 employees which allowed him to manufacture and sell in the Western Cape and also export to Namibia and Zambia. He decided he wanted to open a timber merchant company that would supply imported timber from across the world. Decades later, ITM Timber Merchants is a thriving timber and board specialist business and would not be a success without the ITM team. This is the story of the newest ITM team member, Ines Marktl, marketing assistant.

Ines Marktl, ITM Timber Merchants’ sales and marketing assistant. Credit: ITM

Q Tell us about your background?

I finished my studies in 2017 and I was not sure whether I wanted to join the profession that I studied; therefore, I started working at ITM Timber Merchants as I knew this would be a great opportunity for me to learn how to be part of a successful business. I am very lucky that my father allowed me to work beside him as I can understand a business from the view point of a managing director – not many people have this opportunity that I have, and I am very grateful for it. I have a degree in corporate communications and honours in strategic brand communications. I studied the degree at Varsity College and honours at Vega, all in Cape Town.

Q Please share about your role with ITM?

I am responsible for all marketing related projects – I manage the company’s social media accounts; handle all the advertising that we do; and manage the website, ensuring it is updated frequently. I ensure our online presence is updated frequently to keep our clients and followers interested and to ensure they learn something new as often as possible. My position is an internship to help me understand how a business functions and to gain work experience. My aim for the company is to increase our client base through social media and marketing activities by implementing new communication and marketing channels.

Q What attracts you to this industry?

We only buy from suppliers who are FSC-certified, and I strongly believe in the products that we have to offer because timber as a material is eco-friendly, boasts a very small carbon footprint and is the future of building. I enjoy what I do because I am always learning something new and understanding the issues that business’s come across on a daily basis. I enjoy being innovative in ways of marketing our various products and advertising it on our social media accounts.

Q What are the major challenges in the local timber industry?

One of the core challenges is that many South Africans do not have the right knowledge to understand the benefits of using timber, therefore they are not willing to spend the money on this material. For example, a big trend in Europe and the US is cross-laminated timber (CLT) as a replacement for bricks and metals which lowers carbon footprint, requires no water, is much lighter than bricks and metals (less damage on trucks) and is a natural insulator (less money required for heating and cooling). This is not widely used locally as it’s a bit more expensive than traditional building materials. Another big challenge, which I believe is turning into a threat, is the increase of borer beetles that are killing thousands of trees. This problem is occurring in Europe and has now infiltrated South Africa. It’s very sad and researchers are still trying to find a way to curb this. It started in Johannesburg and is slowly moving down towards the Knysna forest, which is a massive challenge in the forestry companies will have to deal with soon. Lastly, economic uncertainty is a major challenge that local timber industries face.

Q From experience, what are the latest trends in the sector?

People are wanting to visually see products, meaning that social media has become more relevant than it was a few years ago. Interacting with clients constantly is important to ensure a good client relationship, therefore updating them with new stock, new timber and new ways of using timber products is highly important. People have become more impatient in today’s world therefore they want to see new content more often and much quicker than ever before.

Q How do you see your future?

I am only 23 so I have many years ahead to experience many things in my life. At the moment, I want to move overseas and gain work experience there to understand the working world in a different country so that I can bring that knowledge back to South Africa.