Southeast Business Trends – March 2023

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Throughout the Southeast region sources agreed, at the time of this writing, that while business is moving along there is no doubt that this market isn’t as strong as it was six months ago.

In Georgia a lumber spokesman said that his sales are definitely slower than they were six months ago. “We are probably 30 percent off from where we were this past summer volume wise,” he said.

His company handles all domestic North American Hardwood species as well as some African and South American Mahogany. “We have a retail outlet here on site so we do have a number of import species,” he remarked. They handle these species in mostly FAS top grade in thicknesses of 4/4-16/4 in the domestic species and 4/4 and 8/4 for most of the imports. He noted that the most in demand species that they carry right now are Soft Maple, Hickory and character grade White Oak.

“We primarily sell to manufacturers of cabinets, architecture and millwork. We don’t have any large manufacturers in our area,” he said. “For the most part people had a back log of business from the summer and I think the concern is once those jobs are complete, will there be jobs in the pipeline behind them?

“Transportation prices are still historically high. Trucks have been easier to find and hire since the demand for lumber has dropped off,” he commented.

He noted that everyone is really waiting to see what happens with the interest rates. “People are concerned going into the spring. They rely on credit lines to manage a lot of their inventory and they have variable rates for different lines of credit. No one knows where the interest rates are going to go,” he said.

In North Carolina a lumberman said that his sales seem to be improving. “We had a real slow second half of 2022. We have started to come back this year and it feels a little better,” he commented.

When asked how business compared to six months ago, he noted, “The big thing is there is a lack of business compared to six months ago. The business that is out there now is a whole lot cheaper than it was.”

His company handles Poplar, Red and White Oak, Hickory, Ash, Walnut and eastern white pine in grades FAS, No. 1 Common and No. 2 Common in thicknesses of 4/4 through 8/4. He mentioned that Poplar is his best seller.

He said that his company sells to distribution yards, exporters, window, pallet and flooring manufacturers. “Many of my customers have said that their business is slow. They don’t need much lumber and that trickles down to us,” he noted.

“Transportation seems to be improving from the disaster that it was in third and fourth quarters of 2022,” he observed.

He also remarked about labor constantly being tough. “We’ve continued to spend money and improve our mill to reduce labor. We are trying to figure out a way to do it without having the people,” he said.

In Tennessee a sawmill representative said that his market seems to have picked up. “It’s worse than it was six months ago. I’m not really sure if that’s because of the extremely high prices. I know many manufacturers are trying to force pricing down,” he stated.

His company offers Red and White Oak in grades FAS, Nos. 1 and 2 Common and No. 3A Common in Ash, Cherry, Hickory, Hard and Soft Maple and Poplar in grades FAS, Nos. 1 and 2 Common. He said that they handle Poplar and White Oak in thicknesses of 4/4 through 6/4 and all other species in 4/4. Poplar is his best seller.

His company sells to flooring, moulding and trim manufacturers and distribution centers. “It seems that the flooring guys are scrambling to figure out what their pricing needs to be while everyone else is waiting for the prices to come down. There is an overall lack of demand. Price is the biggest factor right now,” he noted about how his customers’ sales seem to be.

He mentioned that while transportation doesn’t seem to be an issue, at the time of this writing, his company has struggled with labor shortages consistently over the past few years.

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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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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