Hardwood suppliers and wholesalers in the Lake States spoke of mixed business activity in recent weeks. Some products are moving better than others and yet some have no changed activity. Transportation is still among the bright spots for the hardwood lumber suppliers in the region who are coming back from a deficit in trucking availability during the same time period last year.
In Minnesota a hardwood lumber supplier said activity is average, but slightly better than the prior month. The White Oak and Walnut supplier said his customers had mixed activity in recent weeks. “It really depends on who you talk to really. Some of our customers are busy ordering out a ways while others are at a standstill,” he explained. The contact said while transportation availability is better, interest rates and housing starts were among his top concerns.
An Indiana wholesaler said sales have been slow and inquiries have become fewer and farther apart. Distributing Walnut, White Oak, Ash, Cherry, Hard and Soft Maple and Poplar, the source said over 50 percent of his customer base have accounted for average conditions. He did note that transportation availability loosening has improved logistics. “Transportation is much better than this time period last year,” he explained. “It’s easier to move the product and that allows us to maintain steady inventory levels. There’s not much worse than having loads of lumber sold that you can’t find transportation for.” The wholesaler said he doesn’t expect much of a change in business climate for the remainder of the year. “We’re holding what we have, and our customers are cautious. I don’t think we’ll see a complete downturn, but we’re not going to trend up from here either,” he said.
A hardwood lumber supplier in Michigan said his markets are hot and cold. “Some stuff is moving and others are not,” he remarked. “Activity is a little better overall. It seems like there are a lot of different things going on. Some people don’t want to carry much inventory and other folks are watching their inventory closely. It’s just a mixed bag out there. I think the overall story is that things have slowed down. There is a little glimmer of optimism. Transportation is a light because it has gotten easier to find trucks.”
The source said his customers’ business is hit and miss. “One of my best customers said he was taking 400 pallets a week and last month they dropped him down to 300 a month. That change of pace is hard on your pocketbook and your ego.” He said all species are sluggish currently. “Maple has even slow-bodied more for us in the last month.
The price was coming down steadily but now everybody has tightened up on that too. Red Oak is the same way, we have a lot of outlets for it, but the price keeps ticking down.” Looking at what the next few months will bring he had a positive outlook. “In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen a slight increase. Whether or not that is an inventory juggle as much as anything else we just don’t know yet.”