Lumber Market Update- April | Shepley Wood Products
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Lumber Market Update- April

March started off at a very brisk pace, with many transactions that kept both the retail and wholesale levels quite busy. As most had predicted, business was going to pop once spring arrived and it did not disappoint (especially for dealers who had the luxury to prepare for it as the market had been languishing for months). On the wholesale level, supplies were strained for a time, but this was simply a result of an influx of orders coming in at once after a long period of flat sales. Rather than a frenzy, this rally was a slow build with incremental price increases over several weeks, tempered by the dealers who chose to bulk up their inventory ahead of time. This strategy reduced the sense of urgency to obtain stock, which married well with the longer lead times put forth from the mills. The availability of dimensional framing was fractured (with 2x6 and 2x10 under the most pressure) and they eased as the month concluded but studs, clearly the star of the month, continued to be tight with Premium being the toughest to obtain. Overall, prices did escalate (and at times in double-digits, a first since July 2023) but as the month closed have slowed their trajectory or are holding steady. For April, we anticipate that sales will remain strong, and that pricing will ratchet up moderately a bit more but then flatten as supply and demand equalize based upon current production levels and sales outtake.

In this industry, the ebb and flow of supply and demand comes and goes but a constant is the lack of a readily hirable workforce. Experienced, knowledgeable, and reliable employees are the hardest of all “commodities” to obtain in the building trades, and perhaps we are of some to blame as, historically, there has been very little positive or believable persuasion to encourage young entrants to join the trade or supply chain. To quote a personal favorite line from the movie “Caddyshack,” the central character (Danny Noonan) remarks with great remorse “I’m gonna end up working in a lumberyard the rest of my life” after learning that he did not win a college scholarship. That kind of regret sums up a common attitude towards working in our field as it has never gotten the full respect it deserves, especially when compared to jobs in finance, law or medical. Degrees, certifications and licenses aside, there is an education in and of itself to explain the benefits and complexities of working in our industry as, although there has been a pervasive stigma associated with it, ours is unique and has always offered opportunities that most people have never even fathomed. Nonetheless, it is a matter of attitude and point of view and for those of us in-the-know, we realize that this is a very creative and challenging industry with tremendous opportunities for long-term, lucrative, and rewarding careers that are often not pursued by those who are not in-the-know. The tricky part is that a tremendous amount of industry knowledge and skill necessary to do the job well cannot be learned from a textbook (which often does not even exist for our needs) or a lab, so much comes from experience, training and accumulating knowledge that has been handed down through many generations of carpenters, tradesmen, and lumber people. In addition, it is an ever-changing field that, whether it is based upon current building design trends, changes in building materials or code updates, continuing education is 100% necessary. Most often, the best continuing education for our field is hands-on experience which, whether it is picking a lumber load or swinging a hammer, takes instruction and acquired skill, but mostly ambition overall. Likely every single one of us can agree how time-consuming and often frustrating it can be to on-board a new, inexperienced employee, especially when business is full tilt. We can look back and laugh at our own “break-in” periods as they often come with anecdotes about situations that we have put ourselves in (and often to the great detriment of the project or our boss’s wallets), but that’s the risk an employer takes: the good ones know that constant supervision and guidance will eventually mold the newbie into a pro. It is ironic that, by the time that business is cranking, that’s when you need good talent the most, but we all have had to start somewhere and finding the time to train someone is always extremely difficult.

It is a matter of attitude and point of view and for those of us in-the-know, we realize that this is a very creative and challenging industry with tremendous opportunities for long-term, lucrative, and rewarding careers that are often not pursued by those who are not in-the-know.

So, in taking into consideration what people went through in training us, we must first be grateful to those who have given us the opportunity and secondly to those who have helped train us to become the professionals that we are. We also have an obligation to share what we have learned with the next generation. Especially to those that have a sincere interest in making a career out of a job, it’s critical that we make the time to explain, show, explain again, show again and so on in order to lift an employee to a place that gives them the ability, knowledge, and confidence to invest themselves in our businesses. Although it can come at a great expense of our personal time, we can all agree that it is time well-spent and can quite literally be compared to putting money in the bank. It is also a great tribute to all of those who patiently did the same for us.

Construction is a wonderful career field populated by many extremely smart, talented, creative, and ambitious people we call our customers. Giving back a part of yourself to posterity to ensure the successful longevity of this trade is a necessity, and we are proud to say that we have always actively recruited and trained some of the best people in this industry, many of which came to us with little more knowledge than what a 2x4 was. To have built a sales force and operational staff of the caliber that you will find at Shepley is something that we are extremely proud of, and we hope that you get to experience some of the benefits that our hard work has created by investing in these fine people. Thank you for your business.