Southeast Business Trends – February/March 2023

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Throughout the Southeast region, sources have said that their markets are slower than they have been. One source noted, at the time of this writing, that he has seen an increase in his sales over the past few weeks, while another said this is the worst he’s ever seen the marketplace in all his time in the industry. There is a general consensus that sales are currently dependent on the lumber species.

A lumberman in Mississippi stated, “We’ve just come off the best two years we’ve seen in our lives, but right now, it’s about as slow as I’ve seen it. It’s really, really quiet.”

He handles most species indigenous to the Southeast and Eastern United States, from pallet lumber to FAS in 4/4 and 5/4.

He sells to end users only. His customers manufacture flooring, pallets, crating and upholstered furniture frames. “I think their sales are quiet, too,” he commented.

“Transportation is steady,” he said, although their need for it has declined. “But when we do need a truck, we don’t have trouble getting one and the rates have been stable.”

A sawmill representative from Georgia said that while over the past few weeks they have been very busy, they are doing worse than they were six months ago. “This is a direct impact of the interest rate hikes and the mortgage hikes, they are slowing us down, and you can see it in the housing starts,” he commented.

He handles Red and White Oak and Poplar in grades No. 1 and 2 Common and in thicknesses of 4/4 through 10/4. He remarked that all his species seem to be selling about the same.

He said that he sells to a variety of customers including end users and brokers that export overseas. “We have some customers throughout Texas, Florida and Georgia that seem to be carrying on at a brisker pace, but again it still seems to be spotty,” he said. He also mentioned that he visited a flooring plant where the lumber purchaser asked for help moving No. 2 Common in thicknesses of 1/2 inch and 3/4, which lead him to believe that No. 1 Common and Select in thicknesses 1/2 inch and 3/4 were selling pretty well. “I think that all of us right now are literally day to day and sometimes half days to half days,” he remarked.

He said that transportation was severely affecting business, until they started to get busy again. Now, while he might have trucks scheduled to come pick up his product, his biggest worry has been making sure that they weren’t offered a better job, or that they remembered to bring everything they needed, like tarps.

In Tennessee, a lumber spokesperson said that his sales are really dependent on the species. He noted that Poplar seemed to be doing better than it was six months ago, while Red and White Oak were still doing about the same and not selling very well, and that Hickory was selling alright and that it was still about the same as it was six months ago.

He explained that he sells Red and White Oak, Poplar and Hickory in grades FAS No. 1 and 2 Common in thickness of 4/4.

He mentioned that he has export customers in Europe but that they are buying next to nothing right now. He said that he also sells to end-use manufacturers, cabinet companies, flooring companies and to brokers. “Most of the domestic cabinet companies have said that sales were still pretty good, and they were optimistic going into the new year. Flooring companies on the other hand, they haven’t been doing so well,” he remarked.

He noted that trucks have become more available and they aren’t the problem that they once were. When it comes to labor he said, “We are still starved for employees; we don’t have anyone to hire.”

An Alabama lumberman said that the market is worse than he has seen it in his career in the forest products industry. “It’s absolutely worse,” he said about the market compared to six months ago. “The factors that have caused sales to be so much worse has been the competition among the companies with inventory and extremely low demand.”

He handles Red and White Oak, Ash, Poplar and some Sap Gum in grades No. 1, 2 and 3 Common, as well as pallet grade. He said that he predominantly does thicknesses of 4/4 and a limited production of 5/4. He also noted that none of his species are selling well, at press time.

He said that he sells to a variety of end-use manufacturers, including, kitchen cabinet, flooring, furniture, moulding, pallets, industrial timbers, crossties and switch ties as well as exporters. He said that all the customers that have remarked on their sales have said that their markets are shrinking drastically.

He commented that transportation has not been an issue for his company for some months now, with there being an abundance of trucks and their costs have been going down and the cost of freights coming down slightly, as well.

He noted that his company has continued to have issues with labor since the beginning of the pandemic.

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By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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