West Coast Business Trends – November 2023

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Hardwood distributors and manufacturers on the West Coast accounted for softer market conditions this month. In California, one distributor said, “It comes and goes. We had a strong summer so now we see a little seasonal color. Supply is tightening up on specific grades, and other grades are abundant. It’s hit or miss right now.”

Compared to the previous quarter he said business activity was about 10 to 15 percent worse. “Not necessarily in my region but the best-moving items right now are certainly Poplar, White Oak, and maybe Hard Maple,” he said. “4/4 is moving fast and 6/4 and the thicker stocks have slowed down considerably.” When asked about his customers’ business activity the contact said, “It’s mixed in that department as well. Some guys are slow and then those that are busy can’t find good quality people to work with. They can’t get as much done as demand requires for them because they can’t get bodies in the door that want to work.”

An Oregon wholesaler said labor was also a large concern. “We are having a hard time replacing the older generation. Not a lot of people are interested in working with wood anymore. Our newer employees are sons of their dads who have worked with us for decades.”

As for his market activity the source said he markets to end users and other wholesale distributors. “We are seeing a slow down right now,” he noted. “It’s typical of the season’s turn.” He commented that transportation was a bright spot. “We had some issues in the spring, but not so much right now. Along the West Coast there was so much produce and nursery stock so availability is really good.”

When asked about a future forecast he said, “I don’t look for many changes. We’re heading into a slower season for everybody and with prices diving the way they did last year, I just hope we don’t see a repeat. Inventory is a little higher than this time last year so maybe we’ll see it even out before break up.”

In Washington a Hardwood lumber supplier said the biggest concern for his business is lack of demand from international markets. “The lack of demand from China has hit us a bit this year,” he explained. That has an impact that directly impacts markets domestically. Prices have been pushed down as a result.”

Looking at what lays ahead, sources in the region said they expect more hit or miss activity and a possible seasonal slow down. The Washington contact commented, “We took a dive in the spring. So logging suffered and there was a lot of inventory at the time. Now that this inventory has gone away there isn’t anything in the chain to replace it. The eastern species take so long to dry, up to six months depending on the species. We may not see much availability in that area until after the first of the year and prices will rise again.”

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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