West Coast Business Trends

Jan Issue

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The market was strong recently along the West Coast, said the sales manager of an Oregon-based Hardwood distribution yard. “Everything’s still strong nationally,” he said. “We are incredibly under-supplied. We are seeing really strong demand for the building construction markets, cabinetry, furniture and flooring. The industry is in a good spot, one we haven’t seen for quite a while, but it has been that way for most of the year.”

The market is about the same as it was six months ago and much better than 12 to18 months ago, he said. “Most of 2021 has been pretty good,” he commented. “If anything, it’s probably starting to level some. There’s not any downward pressure I can sense.”

The firm sells Ash, Cherry, Birch, Hard and Soft Maple, Red and White Oak and Poplar to distributors and manufacturers that service the cabinetry, furniture and pallet markets. It sells primarily 4/4 and 5/4.

Soft Maple is the top selling species followed closely by Hard Maple and Birch. “There’s not a dead item out there,” he remarked. “There’s really not a weak line. A couple of items like Cherry, Poplar and Red Oak are starting to level off, coming off of peaks, but they’re still better than they were 12 to 18 months ago.”

Movement is going well for the operation’s customers. “Most people have order files that are extended,” he said. “There’s more concern about getting supply than what the price is now. That’s a good spot to be in. You need to make sure you can secure the volume as most people are backlogged to some degree.”

Lack of labor remains an issue keeping businesses from being able to catch-up with orders. “I think the supply situation has been exacerbated by labor and other things,” he reported. “It’s keeping everything pretty tight. But, when we’re tight, we do fairly well as an industry.”

Freight is more expensive whether shipping domestically or internationally. Fuel prices have escalated prices in general for anything and everything. Delays at ports are causing some grief on the export side, he added. “Fortunately, the domestic market has been okay, as we’re able to move what we want to move and when we want to move, but costs have definitely gone up,” he commented.

For a Southern California distribution yard, the market “is not as fast as it was,” but remains favorable. “Customers are not in a hurry to get the orders, but still want the orders,” the company owner said. “They’re taking the lumber, and orders are solid, but some of the jobs have been pushed-back timewise.”

Sales of Walnut, Hickory, White Oak and some Poplar to distributors and flooring companies are comparable to six months ago with Walnut and White Oak selling the best. 

The company sells all 4/4 high-end lumber for flooring customers who tell him they’re still having a hard time finding some products, such as White Oak and Walnut. 

Sales were going well for a Washington lumber supplier who sells to customers east of the Mississippi River. “As far as our territory goes, sales have been good,” said the sales and lumber purchasing executive. “We are rolling into the holidays, we get mixed signals but it sounds like our customers’ order files are pretty good.”

Volume was higher six months ago when sales were brisker. “It was pretty brisk there in the early part of the year going into spring,” he noted. The home building market was more substantial in the spring and summer.

“All indications are things are good,” he commented. “Supply is getting better. There’s more availability out there.”

Soft Maple sells the best for him. “I could probably sell Soft Maple all day long if I could get my hands on it,” he stated. “But, with what we can get our hands on, I would say Poplar is the best seller now. Then, Hard Maple.” The firm also markets White Oak, Hickory as well as smaller volumes of Red Oak and Birch in grades No. 2 and Better, including No. 1 Common and No. 2 Common and FAS in thicknesses from 4/4 through 8/4.

“Our customers are all pretty positive on their order flows,” he said. “Everyone has pretty good order files.”

Though transportation remains expensive, it has gotten a lot better, he said.  

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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