Lumber providers in the Inland West region report good business for their products, with one source summing the market up this way: “It’s pricey.”
“There’s a lot of interest in buying our products,” a lumberman from Montana stated, “but the availability of raw material for our remanufactured products is pretty slim.” Therefore, these raw materials are “pricey.”
He observed, “The dynamics of the market are kind of a double-edged sword. Sales have never been easier. Sourcing has never been harder. I wouldn’t say the market is better or worse than it was a few months ago; it’s kind of adapting to the new atmosphere that is both exciting and challenging at the same time.”
This lumberman provides Ponderosa Pine, Lodge Pole Pine, Engelmann Spruce, Spruce Pine Fir, Douglas Fir and Larch. “Doug Fir and Larch boards are virtually non-existent,” he noted. His best sellers are Ponderosa Pine and Lodge Pole Pine boards. Thicknesses range from 1×4 through 1×12 and 2×4 through 2×12.
His sales are mostly to distributors, wholesalers and some end users. The end users tend to be large barn builders, log home builders and larger construction companies in his locale. How is business for his customers? “Their sales have doubled if not tripled,” he reported. “Their volume is just exploding right now.”
How long does he think such a boom will continue? “As people start to travel,” he ventured, “I think they might not be spending five-grand on a house remodel. I think the home centers are going to determine a lot of what our future looks like as, kind of a middleman. So, if that retail demand begins to go down as people start to travel again, you could start to see the market regress. And, if interest rates go up, people might hold off a little more on those new home builds.”
Not only has lumber become pricey, so, too, has transportation. “Freight, at least from what I’ve seen, went from about $1.75 a mile to anywhere from $2.10 to $2.90 a mile,” he stated. “We have trucks that normally move in three days that have been sitting for weeks, trying to get them moved at a reasonable rate.”
In Idaho, one source described the market there as “very good. Pricing is very good. Sales are good. It’s hard for them not to be good in this market.”
Compared to several months ago, the market, he said, is better. “We’re selling everything we get, and prices are higher.”
He sells Ponderosa Pine No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4; Idaho White Pine (in Sterling, Standard and Utility grades); and Cedar decking.
Is there a best seller? Not really, he replied, stating that, “We sell it all, in terms of what the mill makes. There are no weak items in any of our species. We sell more No. 3 Common Pine boards than No. 2 Common because we make more, but basically, we’re sold to the pavement on everything. When it comes out of the planer, we sell it, and that’s it for the day.”
He sells mostly to distributors. His customers’ businesses are “going very well,” he noted.
As for transportation, he said trucks and rail are hard to get “but still moving.”
Down in Arizona, a source stated that his business is “very, very busy. There’s lots of demand. There’s more demand than we have product. Everybody is struggling to get inventory from the mills. Lumber is hard to get. We stock Spruce, SPF, White Fir, Douglas Fir and studs and Select Struct White Fir. Our customers switch their orders between species, because there are so many challenges getting lumber. People will buy whatever you have – if you have it. Right now,” he continued, “all the species are hot. However, generally speaking, Doug Fir is probably our biggest mover.”
Compared to six months earlier, the market is “about the same,” he observed. “It’s been crazy for the last year, actually.”
His customers include wholesalers and distribution yards. However, they don’t give him feedback on how their businesses are faring.
Transportation is “absolutely” a problem, he stated. “It’s taken up to a month to get truckloads covered out of the Northwest at really high prices. And most rail cars are running somewhere between two and three weeks late. So, it’s a big deal right now.”
A lumberman in Wyoming reported that the market there is “still strong.” In fact, it’s stronger, he said, than it was a half a year ago. “Demand is stronger than it was a few months ago,” he said.
The lumber he handles is Pine in all grades. He sells this lumber to both end users and distribution yards. “Everybody’s got a lot of angst,” he reported. “Everybody’s frustrated because the lumber supply is limited, but they know there’s nothing they can do about it, so they just do what they can. Supply certainly can’t keep up with the pace of demand right now. The distribution yards sell everything they can get in. A lot of it is sold as they get it, and the price is not fixed. Everybody’s selling at the time of delivery.”
Transportation is OK for this lumber provider. “As far as the supply of transportation, that has leveled out,” he said. “It’s still much more costly. To open up the lanes we needed, we had to start paying more. We’ve been paying between 60 and 75 to 80 percent more on certain lanes to keep the material moving. We’ve been doing that for about six months.”