Inland West Coast Business Trends

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Inland West Coast Business Trends 1
By Terry Miller

Softwood lumber providers in the Inland West region have said in recent interviews that their business activity is OK, but not great. One of them said that, after two or three years of crazy-good sales, it’s now back to normal.
In Arizona, a lumberman said, “Overall, we’re doing OK, nothing amazing or bad, but it’s average. The market had a big flurry last week with a lot of sales, but it petered out.”
Compared to a few months ago, he said his market is “worse,” due in part to seasonality.
He sells 2×4 to 2×6 in White Fir, 2×4 to 2×12 in Green Douglas Fir and studs in No. 2 Common. His best seller is Green Douglas Fir.
His customers include big box stores (whose sales, he said, are average), distribution yards (whose sales are way off since they sell to single family home builders) and multifamily residence providers (who are still going strong).
Transportation is a mixed bag, he said. “Trucks are better than in the past, but rail is worse. The railroads can’t seem to get anything together, and there are long lead times.”
In Idaho, a lumber provider said, “Dimension has had a good couple of weeks lately. Pine boards and Cedar are harder to sell. Wood is moving, but it’s just going, not going great. We’ve been spoiled by the last couple of years, with lumber just flying off the shelf, so to speak.”
His sales are “about the same on the whole, on the average” as they were six months ago.
Those sales include Pine and Cedar (1×4 through 1×12 on Pine and 2×4 through 2×12 and 1×4 through 1×12 in Cedar) as well as decking in Cedar. Grades of Pine include No. 2 Common, No. 3 Common and No. 4 Common. Cedar grades are AK, Midgrade and Utility.
He sells lumber to distribution yards. “Their sales are going OK; they’re just very nervous about the coming year, trying to keep inventory low. It’s positive that they keep their inventory down because they regularly come back to the table to buy lumber. Also, as we get nicer weather, I expect sales will pick up.”
Transportation is a continuing challenge, he stated, “both in price and availability.”
In Utah, a Softwood lumber provider remarked, “Overall, I think the start of this year has been better than where we were in the fourth quarter of 2022 in activity. There’s a lot of wood out there. We have been oversupplied for what consumption rates have been. That’s probably going to dictate pricing throughout this year. Sales are about on pace for historical averages, well below the level of the past two or three years when it was going berserk with high sales volumes. We’re back to what I would consider normal.”
Compared to several months earlier, the market is “worse,” he noted.
He sells SPF, Hemlock Fir, Douglas Fir, ESLP and Whitewoods in 2×4 through 2×12, Select Struct, No. 3 Common, Utility and Economy. His best seller, he said, is 2×4, 9-foot precut in all species.
He sells to large retail stores and independent contract yards. Their sales to their customers are “off about 20 percent,” he stated.
“Transportation is always a challenge this time of year,” he remarked at the time of this interview. “Overall, it’s to be expected and accounted for, so it’s not that big of a hang-up.”

By Terry Miller

Editor, Marketing Consultant, and Third generation publisher. With Miller Wood Trade Publications since 1983.

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