Southeast Business Trends – November 2023

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Lumber sources throughout the Southeast region generally came to the same consensus when asked how their markets were doing, at the time of this writing, with all of them sharing that their markets seem to be on the slower side.

A Mississippi lumberman said that while his sales are all over the place, they are doing better than they were six months ago. “Our sales into the Asian markets are slow right now, while our sales into our other export markets are doing well,” he noted. “The sales into the domestic markets are steady, but I see room for improvement due to the lack of supply.”

His company offers Red and White Oak, Poplar and some Ash in 4/4 thickness and in all grades, he added that they only kiln dry grades No. 2 and Better. He also mentioned that White Oak is his best selling species with plenty of demand.

When asked what types of customers that he sells to, he said secondary manufacturers, such as flooring, cabinets and moulding, as well as distribution yards. “Some of my clients are doing worse than others. It seems that the Hardwood flooring sector is suffering worse than any other sector that I sell to.”

Another Mississippi lumberman said, “Our market seems to be going the wrong way. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking that everything is terrible, but once I looked at the financial statements everything was where it needed to be and we are actually doing okay.”

His company offers all species that are indigenous to the Southeastern United States, with Oak and Poplar being his best sellers. He noted that they handle pallet grade through Face with a primary thickness of 4/4.

He sells to end users and pallet manufacturers. “We are often able to tell how the economy is doing based on how the pallet manufacturers are doing, and I just recently had a pallet customer tell me that their business has slowed down and that they were not going to need as much product as usual,” he said.

“We have had such an amazing last three years and we are at a point where we think we could be doing better than we are, but we have become accustomed to a different marketplace since the pandemic,” he continued.

A lumber salesman from North Carolina said that his sales have started to quiet down. “We are still shipping and I am optimistic about this fall, however the winter may be a different story,” he added.

When asked if his sales are better than they were six months ago, he said, “Our sales have certainly dropped off some, the economy is slow and with the higher interest rates people aren’t buying and building homes like they were.”

He mentioned that his company offers Red and White Oak and Poplar in thicknesses of 4/4-8/4 and in all grades. “White Oak is certainly our best seller. Red Oak seems to have started to pick up and Poplar’s pricing is still a concern,” he continued.

He sells to end use manufacturers, such as millwork, flooring and furniture makers, as well as distributors. “All of our customers’ business seems to have also dropped off to some degree. We are working 40 hours a week, we haven’t had to work short time, but we aren’t putting in over time,” he said.

In Georgia a lumber representative said that his marketplace has been better than it has been over the past six months.

He offers Red Oak in thicknesses of 4/4 and 5/4, Poplar in thicknesses of 4/4, 5/4, 6/4, 8/4 and 10/4 and White Oak in 4/4. “White Oak is my best seller in all grades. Red Oak is selling well in FAS and No. 2 Common, I just wish that there was more volume there. FAS Poplar is doing well and so is Poplar in No. 2 Common,” he said.

He added that his biggest issue with Poplar is getting it into certain markets. “From a freight standpoint, I can’t match what people want to pay for it and also get it to port. When the price of Poplar loosens up I think that it will be just fine.”

He sells to Hardwood distribution, domestic end use customers, such as flooring and cabinetry and to exporters. “I react to what my customers want to buy and it doesn’t matter what market I am selling into, the prices vary from customer to customer,” he mentioned.

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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