Southeast Business Trends

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The Hardwood market in the Southeast is booming compared to six months ago, but unprecedented issues remain with supply not meeting demand across the region. All sources repeated similar concerns and commented that the supply-and-demand dynamic is unprecedented. One source said, “Prices are rising, and volume is scarce.” Another remarked, “It’s never been like this, and I’ve talked to some customers of ours who’ve been doing this for 40-50 years, and they would say the same thing.”

A lumber supplier in North Carolina commented, “Most of us have been, or are, out of logs. It’s hard to sell something you don’t have.” However, he observed that the market prices have improved compared to six months ago. His company manufactures Red and White Oak, Poplar, Ash, and Cyprus in all grades, with Poplar and White Oak “busting at the seams,” he explained. His company sells to a mixture of end users and distributors who reportedly are looking for more product due to a log shortage. 

As far as transportation, this lumber provider described it as “a nightmare all by itself,” with increased prices for transporting lumber. “It didn’t go up a little bit, it doubled,” he stated. 

According to him, these trends are unusual for the Hardwood industry. “I’ve been doing this since 1974, and I’ve never seen Hardwood like it is right now.” 

A different lumber source from Tennessee shared the same concerns regarding supply. He has been in the Hardwood industry for nearly 28 years. “The market is incredible,” he stated, but “supply is extremely low.” Compared to six months ago, this source said he’s seen far better sales recently. He emphasized sales as being “a whole, whole, whole lot better.” He offers all major Appalachian species: Red and White Oak, Hickory, Hard Maple, Poplar, Ash, and Cherry with grades ranging from No. 3A and Better. His best-sellers are Poplar and White Oak with domestic business to end users, such as flooring manufacturers, moulding, trim and cabinet companies, as well as distribution centers and American exporters. When asked about his customers’ perspectives on the market, the source noted, “I mean, they’re all real anxious. Everybody seems to be in the same boat and needing the supply and not being able to get it.” When asked why, he explained, “There’s a shortage for the time being. Of course, as we came out of winter, production got better. It’s just going to take a while to produce enough to meet the demand.” This contact’s company owns its own trucks, resulting in fewer issues with transportation compared to other sources.

There appears to be unanimous agreement in the Southeast that demand has been far higher than what it has been in the past. In Arkansas, another source described the market as “upside-down.” He reported it as being busier than it was six months ago, but with prices trending upwards. He believes that “being oversold is better than being undersold.” 

He sells Red and White Oak, Hickory, Walnut, and Maple, with an especially high demand for No. 2 Common and quartered Select Red Oak. “We’re probably backlogged on 80 percent of our skews, if I had to guess,” he said. All his customers are in distribution wholesale, who apparently “can’t get enough material,” he shared. 

Transportation poses a problem for this Arkansas lumber contact. “It’s certainly not as easy to get trucks as it was weeks or months ago, but we’re still able to move most of what we’re trying to move without too many delays,” he commented. “We have a good network of local carriers here that we’re able to use. I don’t have to broker too many loads out.” 

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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