Lake States Business Trends – September 2022

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Hardwood lumber sales in the Lake States region are not booming. Nor are sales declining a lot.

A sawmill representative in Michigan stated, “Our sales are pretty good. I hear some chatter about things slowing down, but our shipments have still been good. However, sales have leveled off; it’s not booming.

“It’s pretty doggone hot,” he added, “so sales have slowed some from six months ago.”

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

Half of his customers are end users and the others are distribution yards. “The distribution yards’ sales are still pretty good,” he remarked. “On the distribution end, the main concern is they think pricing has peaked and they don’t want to get stuck with high-priced inventory. They’re trying to run their inventory down. A couple of flooring manufacturers say prices have fallen off. Also, RV manufacturers have slowed down.”

He said that the availability of transportation is OK. However, “Rates are higher, and we pass them down to customers. The transportation rates are not ideal for anybody. I hope the prices come back down to earth.”

A Wisconsin lumberman said his market is “kind of slow. I’d say kiln-dried Red Oak is slow. White Oak is pretty steady, except for Select and Better. Cherry is kind of slow. Hickory is moving. Basswood has slowed down. He said a lot of this is due to his customers; fuel prices are catching up with them. He also said that this time of the year usually brings a slowdown especially in Red Oak.”

The market is worse than it was a few months earlier, he observed. “Also, the prices are going down,” he stated.

He sells Red and White Oak, Hard and Soft Maple, Cherry, Hickory, Basswood and Aspen in No. 3 Common and Better, mostly in 4/4 and some in 5/4.

He sells lumber mostly to end users. “As far as my distribution yards,” he noted, “it’s going pretty strong still. For end users, their lumber purchases have slowed down. One of my flooring customers said it has slowed way down. One customer said they’re getting sales but it’s not like they were.”

Transportation hasn’t been a big factor for this lumberman. “It’s been pretty good for us,” he commented. He has been working with the same transportation providers for the most part. “We also got a new company in our area that’s picked up a lot of slack from one that retired. That was nice,” he reported.

“Our market is pretty steady,” said an Indiana representative of a concentration yard with a sawmill tied to it. “It’s dropped a little bit from what it was six months ago. There are shortages of lumber and people are dropping prices. In all the uptick of prices in the recent past, we were fair. We didn’t drive our lumber prices up like a lot of other people did. Now, some of our customers can get ridiculously low prices on lumber but they are staying with us. We don’t have drastic swings in our pricing. We have stayed pretty steady on prices.”

He handles Ash, Birch, Cherry, Sycamore, Red and White Oak, Soft Maple, Wormy Maple, Poplar and Hickory in No. 2 Common and Better, 4/4 through 8/4 and some 16/4.

He exports lumber to lumber yards and end users. Domestically, he sells to cabinet, moulding and flooring manufacturers and to distribution yards. “Distribution yards tend to have too much inventory and are backing down from purchasing lumber,” he reported. “Flooring manufacturers’ sales are steady. The RV industry is slowing down. Cabinet and institutional furniture manufacturers are pretty busy.”

He observed that transportation used to cause his company problems “quite a bit. Some lanes are still difficult to ship to, like Denver, Albuquerque and Phoenix. It’s hard to get flatbed trucks in and out of those places.”

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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