West Coast Business Trends – February 2023

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Assessments of Hardwood lumber markets on the West Coast are mixed. It’s either “strong,” “barely fair” or “steady,” depending on which lumberman you’re listening to.

“I’d say business is still strong,” said a lumber provider in Oregon. “In terms of species, Walnut and White Oak are selling well for us.”

Compared to not so long ago, the market is “worse,” he stated. “It has slowed down from the first part of 2022.”

In addition to Walnut and White Oak, he also provides Maple to his customers. He offers higher grades plus No. 1 Common and Better in 4/4 through 12/4 but mostly 4/4 through 8/4.

He sells his lumber mostly to end users including smaller manufacturers of handmade furniture. “Our customers’ sales are still strong,” he remarked. “Most of them are working off of long lead times. Lead times are starting to come down some but the backlog of orders they have is enough to keep business on pace for them.”

Regarding issues negatively affecting his company, he said, “Freight is still expensive; it’s not hard to book but still high in price. Material costs are up mostly because labor costs are up. Absorbing those costs on the front end is difficult.”

A lumberman in Washington said, “Business is a little slower for sure. The market is fair,” and “definitely worse” than six months ago.

He sells all grades of Walnut, Poplar, Oak, Maple, Basswood and all Eastern Hardwoods in 4/4 through 8/4 “but you could see any thickness go out of here,” he noted. Poplar is his best seller now.

He sells to millwork shops, distribution yards, cabinet manufacturers and others. “Our customers’ sales are slowing,” he stated. “Everybody’s order files are shrinking. Everyone was hoping things would be better in January, but it wasn’t clear if that would happen, with interest rates the way they were.”

Transportation is “not” affecting his business, he said. “The diesel shortage has kind of made things unpredictable for rates per mile. But so far, transportation is pretty stable.”

In California, a lumber representative said his sales are “steady but order to order. Lumber is moving.” However, the pace of sales is “a little slower.”

He sells all FAS, No. 1 and 2 Common in 4/4 thickness in Walnut, Hickory and White Oak.

His customers are flooring manufacturers and retail lumber yards. “Their sales are steady, not as busy, but they’re still moving products,” he remarked. “Their customers are waiting longer to ask for the product.”

For his company, transportation is “always OK,” he stated. “We have so much trucking in this part of the state. Also, containers are arriving in a more timely manner from the sawmills.”

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By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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