Lumber providers on the West Coast who were contacted gave positive assessments of their markets. One distributor put it this way: Inflation, especially fuel costs, is a problem. “It’s a stable market,” he continued. “But my concern is, if we have many more of these runups in costs, is it going to go the other way? The cost of materials to build homes is up, the 30-year mortgage rate is up, and we’d love to grow our business, but getting employees has been very difficult. There’s a lot going on. And in spite of all that, we’re still successful.”
He compared early 2022 to early 2021 and found them to be “comparable.” He offers “all species imported and domestic,” he stated. “Poplar, Red and White Oak and Maple are the big sellers.” He sells to industrial accounts, especially cabinet manufacturers, retailers, companies that do remodeling and display companies. “Their sales are fine,” he observed, “but a big challenge is that they have quoted jobs prior to big price increases.” Also, he said, “Everyone is upset about inflation, and people have concerns about Russia asking China for support in the Ukraine. It’s a distraction. We’re just going to have to see it through.
“Getting transportation from our suppliers in the eastern part of the United States is problematic,” he added. “The freight rates vary. It’s crazy.”
A broker in Washington said his market is “busy. But all our customers are looking for the same lumber: Hard and Soft Maple and Birch are still tough to come by.” His market is “the same” as it was a few months ago.
He handles Hard and Soft Maple, Basswood, Birch, Poplar, Red and White Oak, Hickory, Alder – “pretty much all the domestic Hardwoods and some imports like Radiata pine and Banak.” His best seller, he observed, is Soft Maple in grades Nos. 1 and 2 Common and Select and Better. He offers “pretty much all thicknesses, but it’s pretty heavy to 4/4,” he stated.
Among his customers are distribution yards and end users. His customers’ sales are “still going pretty well,” he noted. “There’s a lot of concern out there, given the state of the world, inflation and the fuel prices. There’s a lot of uncertainty. We’ve seen some customers talking about holding off on purchasing, but they don’t hold off for long. But they’re very concerned about the future, as to whether we’re going to have a hard slowdown.”
The availability of trucks is a real issue, he said. “It’s not just price; it’s availability at any price.”
In Southern California, “The market is still steady,” a lumberman commented. “It’s not as busy as it was six months ago. It’s steady.” He summed it up, saying, “The market is good.”
He sells Walnut, Hickory, White Oak and Poplar in 4/4, FAS and No. 1 Common and No. 2 Common to distribution yards and end users. “Their sales are solid,” he said. “There are no complaints.” He did note that “containers are taking longer for us to get the lumber from the sawmills.” There are plenty of trucks, he observed. “Drivers add a surcharge for fuel and that’s what the people pay – people being me and everybody else. Especially in California, the rates are really high for fuel.”