West Coast Business Trends

Sept Issue

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Ask several lumbermen on the West Coast about how their market is and, to a man, they mention the tight supply of lumber.

In California, a lumber provider said, “The market’s still strong. You just have to have lumber to supply it. The lumber will be coming after you order it, but it’s not any faster than it was about six months ago. It’s still about the same pace.”

The lumber he sells comes in Uppers in No. 1 Common and No. 2 Common in Walnut, White Oak and Hickory. “White Oak and Walnut are the best sellers,” he stated.

He sells to flooring companies and retail stores. “They’re saying their business is strong,” he reported.

Asked about transportation, he replied, “It’s still Ok, no complaints. It’s just harder to get containers shipped on time here from the Midwest or the East Coast. Other than that, it’s not a problem out here getting trucks.”

To the north, in Washington, a lumberman stated, “Availability is still pretty tight. We’re still struggling to find odds and ends. Whitewood is tough to get; even Poplar is in pretty thin supply. I haven’t seen a lot of activity in Red Oak.”

He said that, although the market is good now, availability of lumber was better six months earlier.

He sells mostly upper grades in Poplar, Hard and Soft Maple, White Soft Maple and White Oak (which he said may be cooling off in sales volume). His customers are distribution yards and end users. “Everybody’s doing well in their sales,” he remarked. “They’re as good as their production. It’s the same old story; labor is a problem across the board. There’s not enough people to work in the factories or mills, so that’s slowing things down.”

Transportation, he observed, is “a little bit better. I think the transportation prices have eased slightly. For the last couple weeks, things have been a little easier.”

An Oregon lumber provider said, “The market is brisk. The problem is the supply chain. You hear this every day. In particular, it’s difficult being able to replenish stock that you’ve sold because of delays and the freight problem, including the cost of freight. It’s exorbitant. We have customers who are looking at all-time high prices for sheet goods or lumber. What we just paid for Black Walnut would make your nose bleed. 

“But, if you’re going to have the product,” he stated “you’ve got to pay the price. We understand the issues our vendors are going through, and we’re all in this together. I have some concerns, however, that if the market-demand changes, you could be stuck with some very expensive inventory to move through the market. So, I think everyone’s going to be looking at and forecasting what’s going to happen, coming into the fall and winter. Most people are saying they believe the market is going to be strong into 2022, and I certainly hope so.”

Asked if he has ever seen anything like this high demand/low supply dynamic, he replied, “I’ve been in this business since 1972 and, no, I’ve seen nothing like this.” 

He sells all domestic Hardwoods and some imported lumber in No. 1 Common and up, Select and Better and FAS. “We don’t handle 2 Common,” he said. He sells lumber in 4/4 through 8/4. His best sellers are Poplar and White Oak.

His customers are companies that make store fixtures and cabinets as well as retail lumber yards. Some companies are remodeling stores, and that is helpful to this lumberman. He said, “I think for the most part, my customers are doing well. A lot of our big cabinet companies, however, are stuck because they weren’t forecasting their purchases and were depending on just-in-time. They’ve been caught in a squeeze. It’s tough.

“Transportation costs are way up,” he observed. “Once we get the product into our facilities, we have our own trucks, and we make deliveries to our customers. With bringing in material from our vendors, it’s tough to get containers.”

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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