West Coast Business Trends – November 2022

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As of this writing, sources on the West Coast said that the market has slowed down and has begun to soften, with their sales being worse than they were six months ago.

A sawmill representative in Washington said, “It’s been slow. There has definitely been a noticeable downturn in the past four to five weeks.” His company attributes this to the rising interest rates and the building and sales of homes slowing down.

While he said that his sales are worse than they were six months ago, his best-selling species continue to be Walnut, Poplar, Oak, Maple, Basswood and all Eastern Hardwoods, in all grades with thicknesses in 4/4 through 8/4, noting that they will supply a customer with any thickness that they want.

He sells to millwork shops, distribution yards, cabinet shops and others. He noted that the sales to end users and distribution yards are slowing down as their customers also are slowing down. “They’re being cautious as their customer base slows down. They’re not replacing their inventories until they need to,” he said.

He stated that transportation has continued to get better every month over the past six to eight months.

A lumber spokesperson in California said that his market is soft with several of his best-selling species’ sales slowing down. “White Oak has slowed down. Walnut has also slowed down, but not as much as the White Oak. Hickory is doing about the same as it was six months ago,” he said. He sells all of these in FAS, No. 1 and No. 2 Common with thicknesses in 4/4.

He noted that his company mainly sells to architects, flooring companies and retail lumber yards. “They’re not as busy, but they still have a lot of work. They aren’t struggling. They don’t have a six-month backlog, but they do have a three-month backlog,” he stated.

When it comes to transportation, he said that his company has been lucky since they are in Southern California and have all kinds of truckers. He did note that containers are still about the same as they have been and that they have to wait for shipments from the mills.

A lumberman in Oregon said, “I’d say we’re on par with last year to date, but our expenses are up. I don’t think the market is terrible. We are seeing it slow down some, but part of it is the time of year.” He also noted that everything is hard to gauge after COVID.

He said his best-selling species are Poplar and White Oak, while he also sells all domestic Hardwood species and some exotic species. He sells these species in grades FAS, Select and Better and uppers with thicknesses in 4/4 and 5/4. Cabinet manufacturers are his number one business, and he sells to commercial fixture and furniture manufacturers and remodelers.

He said that his customers seem to be doing OK and that many of them are booked out through the end of the year. “It’s an interesting market. I think we’re going to see wood prices fall soon. People in distribution don’t want to buy a lot of lumber until they see what will happen with the prices,” he stated.

He said that when it comes to transportation, its expensive. “We have our own trucks, which is a big strongpoint, but we must keep truck drivers happy. Then there are the matters of maintenance and fuel,” he noted.

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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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