West Coast Business Trends – January 2023

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Sales of Hardwood lumber on the West Coast had slowed down at the time of this writing, but one lumberman said, “The market is still OK.”

In Washington State, a lumber supplier described the market as “kind of slow right now. We are seeing a continuing slowdown in the market. People are not buying lumber till they absolutely need it. For a year to two years ago, there was a run-up on lumber and people bought four to six weeks in advance to ensure they got the lumber they needed. Right now, there’s a lot of inventory out there.”

He said the market is “about the same as it was two months ago but worse than earlier in the year.”

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.

“We’re seeing the same things some of our customers are seeing: their customer base has slowed down and some are working fewer hours. There’s not a shortage of lumber in any species so our customers don’t have to buy in advance. Most of our customers’ sales have slowed.

“Transportation is the same as it has been recently,” he added. “It’s not bad. It’s not hard to get a truck right now.”

Just to the south in Oregon, a lumber source echoed those observations. “It’s slowing down a bit,” he said, “but I don’t think it’s dead. Sales are pulling back from where they were earlier this year.”

He sells mostly Select Walnut, Oak, Maple and Elm in 4/4-12/4. His best seller, he noted, is Walnut.

His customers are primarily end users who are mostly higher end, handmade, low production furniture manufacturers. Those customers are still working off longer lead times with a backlog of orders. “I don’t think they’ve slowed down too much,” he stated.

Asked about issues negatively affecting his company, he replied, “The cost of freight is a concern. Another issue is higher interest rates to finance equipment and other purchases.”

Down in California, a Hardwood lumber provider remarked, “I think things are not as busy as they have been, but the market is still OK.” Compared to a few months earlier, he said, the market is steady. “I don’t think it’s any better or any worse.”

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

He sells lumber to architects, flooring companies and retail lumberyards. “Our customers are still doing steady business,” he said. “ ‘Steady’ is the best word for their level of sales, and I think it has a positive ring.”

Transportation is not a problem, he commented. “We have a lot of trucks here and availability of containers is OK. Transportation is pretty normal now.”

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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