West Coast Business Trends

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On the West Coast, the markets are good, but different factors are presenting problems to lumber providers.

According to a wholesaler in California, “I would say, it’s been a really good market but it seems to be cooling off a bit. We’ve noticed in the last two weeks it has slowed down.

“It’s worse than it was six months ago, for sure, due to pricing and availability,” he observed. “Keeping goods to sell has been challenging. As for pricing, my opinion is that some people are choosing to put jobs on hold because of material costs.”

He sells “almost everything in Hardwoods,” he said. Ripped White Oak and Walnut are the hottest, he stated. Widths of 4/4 to 16/4 are the most common for this firm.

“We sell primarily to end users,” he noted. “Activity is cooling off for some folks, but some customers are really busy.”

Transportation is an issue for him. “It’s hard to get trucks and costs are skyrocketing. It’s been pretty tough” he observed.

Another California lumberman, who operates a distribution yard, said his market is “pretty good. It’s probably one of the better markets, really. It’s better than six months ago.”

He sells Poplar, Cherry, Red and White Oak, Maple, Ripped White Oak, Walnut and Ripped Walnut in all uppers. Appalachia is the source of this lumber, and he notes that that region has a diverse timber base.

This distribution yard sells to lumber yards and end users. “Everybody I talk to, among our customers, is busy – from larger plants to smaller cabinet shops.” He noted that lumber yards deal with contractors who have had jobs cancelled on them. His thought is that this will help lower demand in the market which could “help out a little bit.”

Then there’s the matter of transportation. Trucks bringing lumber from Washington and Oregon are not a problem, he said. His firm has dealt with the same trucking company for 25 years, and they do good work, he commented. On the other hand, containers for rail shipment are problematic. “The most terrible thing,” he explained, “is ocean freight. There’s nothing pretty about it.” Ships from Estonia, Germany and Spain bring lumber to this distribution yard. “They get through the Panama Canal OK,” he remarked, “but they get up to Long Beach and Port of Los Angeles and they have a long wait to unload. Then they’ll come up to Oakland, where we unload our containers, and they’ll sit in the Bay sometimes two weeks before they get called to the dock to unload. Ocean freight’s horrible. It’s just like the weather, though. It’ll change.”

Up in Oregon, a source stated, “The market is good. The problem is keeping supplies coming in, having delays. 

“I see that the Hardwood lumber market is getting better as far as supply goes,” he noted. “It might be that they’re getting more labor back. 

“I’m a little concerned about the remodel market,” he added. “It has been very active but there’s a concern because there are other ways people can spend their money, such as travel and other activities. It may impact certain areas of remodel. In the housing market, there is only so much capacity, only so many carpenters to go around. We’re seeing that builders are being methodical. They used to put out quite a few foundations and come back later and build on them. Now they lay foundations and complete homes in one area. They’re not pricing a lot of homes till they’re 75-80 percent complete because of all the price increases they’ve had, not just in lumber or wiring or appliances.”

Considering the market a few months ago, he stated, “I would say it’s probably the same.”

The lumber he handles includes all domestics including Red and White Oak, Poplar, Hickory, Cherry and Walnut. The best-seller by volume is Poplar. “We have seen a shift,” he observed. “It used to be that Alder was way up there in sales but not so much anymore.”

Customers include cabinet manufacturers, display and fixture providers and retailers. “They’re booked out about as far as they can go,” he said.

“Transportation is tough,” he noted. “It takes a lot longer to receive containers from the East and Midwest. Within our region, we have our own trucks. That investment has certainly paid off.” 

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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