Lake States Business Trends – December 2022/January 2023

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In the Lake States, lumber providers are facing challenges. Some lumbermen are doing well, despite the difficulties. One of them said, “I think things are just fine.” In the case of another lumber provider, it’s not going so well.

In Indiana, one lumber representative said, “The RV industry has pretty much collapsed. They are now 20 percent of our business. We’ve seen that become about nonexistent. On the other hand, big cabinet manufacturers are still running very strong. When the RV industry declined, enough sales were added from cabinetry that we didn’t notice the RV decline. In the market, people don’t have as big of an urgency to buy as they once had. Do I think it’s OK? Yes, I think it will be better than OK. We will continue to move to different types of customers. Meanwhile, the lumber supply is extremely good. Prices are going down. I think things are just fine.” Still, he added, “It’s definitely slowed down from what it was.”

He sells Hard and Soft Maple in No. 2 Common, all 4/4.

As mentioned, his customers include RV manufacturers and cabinetmakers. “The cabinet business is still pretty good,” he remarked, “but they are losing some of their backlog of orders.”

Transportation has improved, he noted. He buys lumber from a wide area in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota. “People I talk to are not having a hard time with transportation. It’s definitely better than last winter.”

By contrast, a lumberman in Minnesota said his market is “extremely tough. Markets are tight, lumber prices are extremely weak and loggers have no reason to go into the woods and bring back logs with the higher price of fuel and the lower cost of lumber. Also, my customers are curtailing lumber purchases for three months.” The market is “way worse” than it was a few months ago, he remarked.

He sells Red and White Oak, Hard and Soft Maple, Birch, Basswood, Aspen and White and Black Ash, in all grades, primarily 4/4.

He sells green lumber to companies with dry kilns. Those customers sell the dried lumber to a variety of end users, from moulding to wood craft to cabinets. He also produces some cants and pallet lumber.

“Transportation is difficult,” he stated, “especially with the high cost of fuel.”

A Wisconsin lumber provider said, “Our lumber is moving pretty decently. Overall the market is pretty strong. Prices have gone down some but it’s not affecting us too badly right now. I liked it when lumber prices were higher, but it isn’t affecting us a lot.”

The market is “about the way it has been for the last four to six months,” he observed.

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

He sells to distribution yards and end users. “I talked to someone in distribution last week and he had a better month than he had the same month last year. With end users, it depends on who you talk to; a lot of business has backed off.”

For this lumber provider, “Transportation is very good. We do business with a local company that does good transportation work for us. In export, we’re even getting containers in here.”

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By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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