Lake States Business Trends – October 2023

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In the Lake States region, sources from different states are sharing a generally positive outlook on their market conditions. Notably, two sources have mentioned that the Red Oak market is showing stronger performance in their region.

In Indiana, a lumber saleswoman mentioned that her inventory is growing, but she’s seeing certain wood species gain popularity, notably in her higher-grade products.

“Our inventory is a little heavy right now, but some things are changing. I am seeing a lot of export orders come in for Red Oak. I am optimistic that is going to take a dent out of our inventory and help get some of those prices back up. Hard Maple has changed some and I am sold out of it in 4/4 Select and Better and have been able to get its price back up here recently. White Oak is superior, but we don’t have a lot of it, and we just compete for some of those logs. What little White Oak I do have I have seen the prices go up on that significantly. The upper grades are still moving well with some strong pricing. The 1 and 2 Common is still soft with the demand for that really dropping off,” she remarked.

The two primary species at her company are Red Oak and Poplar and she also handles Ash, Basswood, Cherry, Hickory, Hard and Soft Maple, White Oak and Walnut in thicknesses of 4/4 – 10/4.

She sells to both manufacturers and distributors and noted an overall improvement in their situation. She did mention that one of her manufacturing clients expressed worries about Hardwood alternatives such as MDF.

Labor is a concern for her company, and she emphasized the need to adopt automated technology to offset the impact of high turnover. “Last year we did some upgrades and put in some new machinery that was more automated to help with the high turnover we were getting in certain positions.”

In Wisconsin, a Hardwood manufacturer shared that his market is performing better and has noticed an uptick in demand for his Maple and Red Oak in recent weeks.

“We are doing well and have been sawing right along 40 hours a week. We have been selling a little more green than we normally would but that’s just to keep our KD inventories in check. Business the past few weeks has been good, and I have started to see Maple strengthen in my area. Red Oak is strong in some spots as well,” he commented.

His company handles Red and White Oak, White Ash, Hard and Soft Maple, and Basswood in thicknesses of 4/4 – 8/4 and in a range of grades including No.1 and 2 Common, Select and Better, 3A and 3B. Regarding his customers, he noted that they are fulfilling orders and catching up, with certain weeks being busier than others.

When asked if labor was an issue at his company, he commented that he is lucky to have a reliable group of people at his company and added that they could always use skilled workers for specific positions.

In Michigan, a Hardwood sales representative echoed similar feelings, describing his business situation as okay.

“It’s not too bad. It seems like some of the lumber is starting to tighten up with the lack of replacement coming through, but it does feel like everyone has still got lumber though. So for the end user the price is almost secondary to how quick can you get it to me,” he remarked.

His company sells all domestic Hardwoods in thicknesses of 4/4, 5/4, 6/4, 8/4 and grades ranging from FAS/1F, Selects, No. 1 Common, 2A and 3A Common and Framestock. His customers will include some distributors, but he mentioned that for the most part his company tries to sell directly to the end user.

Similar to the source in Wisconsin he has been luckier than others when it comes to labor and stated, “We have been blessed with a good group of workers. There is always an outlier position or two that we will cycle through but for the most part we have been lucky with a staff that wants to come to work.”

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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