On the West Coast, lumbermen rated their markets from “pretty slow” to “order-to-order” to “strong” at the time of these interviews.
In Washington, a lumber provider said his business activity was “pretty slow.” He said the previous month was “pretty good. Many companies had lowered their inventories earlier” and had made up for that the previous month. At the time of the interview, his customers were “getting back into the reorder cycle and we’re just not getting those orders. It just tells me our customers’ business is a little slower than normal, too.”
Compared to six months earlier, his sales were “definitely worse.”
He sells lumber in all thicknesses, mostly 4/4, in Select and Better, No. 1 Common and No. 2 Common. Species include Hard and Soft Maple, Poplar, Red and White Oak, Beech, Alder, Hickory and “any eastern hardwoods.” Poplar is his best seller.
His customers include both end users and distribution yards. His customers’ sales are “diminishing for sure. It’s the heart of winter, so you can’t expect a whole lot of business to be going on.” He added, “Higher interest rates are tamping down home sales; we’re feeling that.
“Transportation has been pretty good,” he commented. “Things are moving, so that’s positive. What’s affecting us? It’s interest rates, straight up. That’s the killer.”
In California, a lumber provider said his business is “still order-to-order. The orders are there; they’re just not giving you any orders for the future. However, the business is still steady.”
How is his business compared to several months ago? “It’s 80 percent of what it was, only off maybe 20 percent,” he noted. “It’s a little down but not dramatically.”
He sells Walnut, Hickory and White Oak in FAS, No. 1 Common and No. 2 Common all in 4/4. Walnut and White Oak are both moving best.
He sells his lumber to both distribution yards and end users. “Their sales are order-to-order,” he commented. “They’re not as busy as they were but they still have orders.”
Asked if transportation poses a problem for his company, he replied, “No, not at all. The containers are coming on a much more consistent basis from the mills. Local transportation is not a problem because we have so many trucks in the area.”
In Oregon, a lumberman called his business activity “still strong.” He added: “People are more timid at buying, but, compared to the last six months or so, we haven’t seen much of a drop-off yet. It’s slowed from the beginning of 2022 but not substantially.”
His business activity has remained “about the same” during that six-month stretch.
He offers Walnut, White Oak and Maple in 4/4 through 12/4 in higher end grades. Walnut was his best seller.
End users, people building high-end furniture or building restaurant or hotel interiors, constitute most of his customers. His customers’ sales are “slowing down,” he said. Over the next few months, he observed, it will be known whether their business dis “pulling back or if it’s a temporary slowdown.
High interest rates negatively affecting his business are “a bummer, but it’s not horrible,” he stated. “Transportation is fine.”