Lake States Buiness Trends – May 2023

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Lumbermen in the Lake States who were recently interviewed said their business activity was good.

A Michigan sawmill representative remarked that the market has been steady lately. “Sales have been pretty good,” he stated.

However, he noted, business is not as good as it was a year ago. “Six months ago, sales were down,” he added, so, at the time of this interview, market conditions were “slightly better” than a half a year ago.

He sells Hard and Soft Maple, Red and White Oak, Hickory, Walnut and Cherry in No. 3 Common & Better, 4/4 through 8/4. His best sellers, he noted, are Red and White Oak, Walnut and Hickory.

His customers are evenly divided between end users and distribution yards. His customers’ sales have increased in the last month or so, he stated. “So, things are better.”

He said transportation is “fine.” The weather is getting better for logging, he added.

A Wisconsin lumberman, speaking for his sawmill, stated that his sales are “decent. Overall, all of our lumber is moving, just not as much as we want. Some of the prices are pretty depressed, but it could be a lot worse.”

Compared to a few months earlier, market conditions are “better,” he said. “I’m getting a lot more calls, a lot more demand than four to five months ago.”

He offers Red and White Oak, Basswood, Hard and Soft Maple, Aspen, Cherry and Hickory mostly in 4/4, some 5/4 and No. 3 Common and Better. His best-sellers are Red and White Oak.

He sells his lumber to both distribution yards and end users. “The manufacturers are taking orders as they get them. For them, nothing is for sure in terms of sales. Distribution yards have been going strong for a long time.”

Transportation, he noted, is “very good. Even export containers are coming in well.”

An Illinois lumber provider said, “The market has been much better. It’s going pretty well. Kiln-dried sales have picked up. Pricing has stabilized, and with some species, prices have increased. It’s very encouraging to have shipments go out. Also, our exporting has picked up some. Procuring green lumber has been a little more difficult but it’s still out there. Outbound shipments have increased.”

Looking back, he said, “Business activity was going well until September 2022. From the fourth quarter of last year until now, there has been a definite improvement in the lumber market.”

He provides Red and White Oak, Ash, Poplar and Cottonwood. His lumber comes in No. 1 Common and Better, primarily, 4/4 through 8/4.

His customers include both end users and distribution yards. “Distribution yards still really haven’t had a slowdown that much,” he remarked. “Their business is pretty strong. They’re still busy. End users, from the flooring industry to the furniture industry to the RV industry have been hot and cold, and are softening. I see the residential flooring business picking back up a little bit. Also, the furniture industry is steady.

“Transportation has definitely improved,” he observed. “Availability is good, but the rates have not come down much.

“Hopefully we can keep the momentum going through summer,” he concluded.

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

The premier online information source for the forest products industry since 1927.

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