Lake States Business Trends – March 2023

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When three Lake States lumbermen were asked about the wellbeing of their separate markets, one of them stated that his business was “very slow.” The other two didn’t say their business activity was strong, but their assessments were in positive territory at the time of these interviews.

A Michigan sawmill representative said his market was “OK, so-so. It’s going all-right. Lumber usage has slowed down or warehouses may be full, but demand has definitely slowed up. Compared to several months earlier, the market is not as good.”

He handles Red and White Oak, Hard and Soft Maple, Cherry, Hickory, Walnut, Basswood and Poplar in No. 3 Common and Better in 4/4 through 8/4 and a little 10/4.

His customers are split about 50-50 between end users and distribution yards. “For the most part,” he said, “their sales are slower. It seems that some of the high-end millwork companies are still selling a lot. Some flooring manufacturers are still moving products OK, but the prices have dropped.”

He noted that transportation “has been fine. It’s readily available.” However, he commented that the weather had been “extremely mild with no frost so the ground has been muddy and not good for logging.”

A sawmill operator in Illinois said his market was “very slow” and “worse than a few months ago.”

He sells Poplar, Red Oak, Hard Maple, Hickory “and all local Hardwoods” in 4/4 and No. 2 Common and Better. His customers include both distribution yards and end users. Business is good for some of his customers but “slow” for others.

He has had trouble with high transportation rates and low availability. “Fuel costs are outrageous,” he observed.

In Wisconsin, a sawmill executive remarked that his market was “still going, but it’s slow. I can’t give you an honest answer as to why. However, my Red and White Oaks are still moving. One that I never had problems moving, I’m having a tough time with: Basswood. I’ve never seen Basswood to be a problem.”

Compared to six months ago, his market is “not as good,” he observed. “It’s not horrible, but it’s not as good.”

Besides Red and White Oak and Basswood, he offers 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 and White Hard Maple.

He sells his lumber to both distribution yards and end users. “Their business is mediocre,” he stated. “Nothing is booming. However, I’ve had more inquiries about my lumber in the last month than I have had in probably four months.” Another plus, he said, is that, “Transportation is good.”

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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