Northeast Business Trends – January 2023

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Across the Northeast region, sources vary on how the market is treating them. They do, however, share a similar sentiment, at press time, that the overall market looks as though it will continue to be unstable.

In Pennsylvania, a sawmill representative said that his business is good and appears to be stabilizing. Despite his business doing well, he said that it is not doing as well as it was six months ago. “We are moving around the same board footage as we were six months ago, but we’ve just narrowed down our customer base. The inquiries aren’t as numerous as they were six months ago. The prices have dropped off the table, so even though we are moving lumber we aren’t moving it with any margin,” he said.

He said that his company mainly handles Hard and Soft Maple, Red Oak and Cherry. They also carry a few other species. “We’re predominantly a 4/4 mill, and of course we pretty much do all NHLA grades.

His sawmill sells to end users, particularly in the kitchen and bath, and moulding and millwork industries, noting that they rarely sell to distributors. He also said that they have their own flooring plant, which causes them to consume a lot of their own lumber.

He commented that his customers are being very cautious right now as there is still a lot of uncertainty. “No one knows what is going to happen in 2023. I know a lot of bath accounts are cleaning up a back log of orders to get their lead times where they should be. There’s just still a lot of uncertainty looking into 2023,” he said.

He added that when it comes to transportation, they aren’t having trouble finding trucks, but with the continuous rise of diesel fuel their transportation costs are also rising.

In Connecticut, a lumber salesman said that business activity is very slow for his company. He noted that it’s slower than it was six months ago, and that the price decreases have made the markets unstable.

The main species that his company deals with are Hard and Soft Maple and Red Oak, in all grades and in thicknesses up to 8/4. He said, “Ironically, Cherry is our best-selling specie because of our exports, but domestically Cherry is dead. Maple is selling the best when it comes to what specie is doing the best domestically.”

He said that they sell to distributors on the West Coast, and to end users nearer to the sawmills in the Pennsylvania area.

“They are trying to reduce their inventories. They believe that their inventories are too high, and some of the product they have on their shelves is priced too high,” he said. “So, they are trying to reduce the inventories before the end of the year. We understand that it happens almost every year, but it seems like it is happening more so this year,” he continued.

Transportation hasn’t affected them like it did last year. He said that they own trucks at one of their locations.

He noted that things are very similar on the export side of things. “The market in Europe has slowed down. China has seemed to pick up, they like to receive shipments for the new year. The Middle East has also started to pick up. We hope that these trends in China and the Middle East continue, it will make up for the loss of sales in Europe,” he stated.

In Massachusetts, a sawmill representative said that they are continuing to have steady business, leaving them where they were about six months ago.

He said that they deal with all native Northern Hardwood species, typically in pallet and lower grades, in thicknesses 4/4 through 8/4. He noted that they do have some higher grades, FAS and kiln-dried Hardwoods, but it isn’t their main business.

Their main customers are factories that use their lumber for bracing and pallets. He mentioned that his biggest customer bought out their biggest competitor, doubling both businesses sales.

He said that transportation hasn’t been an issue for his company as they own seven trucks and that they are only worried about the cost of fuel, at the time of this writing.

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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