Lake States Business Trends – October 2022

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Hardwood lumber sales are proceeding in the Lake States region but are being pulled down in some cases by market forces, according to sources recently contacted.

A sawmill representative in Michigan remarked, “Markets on certain items seem like they’re still very strong. Stockpiles on other items at our customers’ places of business are up right now. I would say there are a lot of customers who seem to be working through inventory and are buying more cautiously or on an absolute-need basis.”

Asked if the market is better or worse than six months earlier, he replied, “That’s kind of tough; that’s subjective. I wouldn’t call it worse. I wouldn’t say better. I wouldn’t call it the same. I’d call it different. What’s different is, we’re having to stay on top of the market, stay in touch with customers to gauge where the market’s at. Certain prices are coming down with increased supply. A lot of communication has to be done with every aspect of the industry. Our monthly sales are about the same as they were six months ago, but the monthly profits might be a little down – but not much.”

He sells Red and White Oak, Hard and Soft Maple, Cherry, Poplar, Walnut, Hickory and Basswood, all grades, 4/4 through 8/4 and 10/4 and 12/4.

He sells lumber to distribution yards and end users. “The distribution yards are facing some of the same issues we are: their customers are working through their inventory with prices coming down. However, distribution yards need to keep lumber on their shelves. Also, lumber is still selling; people are buying it.”

As for transportation, he observed, “Higher freight and fuel costs have been an issue, but it’s getting a little bit better.”

An Indiana lumberwoman stated, “Things are slow. We specialize in the thicker stock – 8/4, 10/4, 12/4 and 16/4 thickness – and sales of those seem to be OK. We’re getting a lot of inquiries on that and moving some of that. But 4/4, 5/4 and 6/4 seem very slow in terms of sales.”

The market, she said, is worse than it was several months ago.

She sells all Hardwood species in 4/4 through 16/4, in all grades.

Her customers include distribution yards, end users and to export markets. “The exporting people are saying nobody’s buying, especially in China,” she said. “It’s very slow. Price is not even an object now; they’re just not buying. Their sales to their customers are slow. I think all aspects of the business are slow: domestic, export, end users – it doesn’t make any difference.

“I think transportation is better than it was a few months ago,” she noted. “We’re not holding loads waiting on containers or for the customers to find a truck to pick up the load. That may be because there’s not as much business out there as there was. So, that’s why there is trucking available. The prices for transportation are coming down, too.”

A Wisconsin sawmill representative said, “Lumber is moving but it’s a little more of a struggle. Prices are dropping. But for the most part, I’m able to sell the majority of my lumber.”

Compared to several months ago, he stated, the market is not as good.

He offers Red and White Oak, Hard and Soft Maple, Basswood, Aspen, Hickory and Cherry in No. 2 and Better and 4/4 mostly, with some 5/4.

He sells 50 percent to end users and 50 percent to distribution yards. “Their sales to their customers are slower than they were a few months ago,” he noted.

“We’re very fortunate on transportation,” he commented. “We’ve been using the same trucking companies for a lot of years. One person at a trucking company retired and we contracted with another person, and they’re hauling steadily out of here.”

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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