Once again, the market surged ahead to new stratospheric heights in May, leaving mouths agape upon the release of every new price report. A continued strong demand and an inadequate availability of lumber in the marketplace ratcheted prices higher every week while lead times from the mills (which were commonly quoted from mid-June to early July) became a major problem as outages continued to plague dealers. Unfortunately, the old lifeline of being able to get prompt deliveries from reloads and distributors was virtually nonexistent as they were suffering along with the dealers in getting and keeping inventory. Oftentimes, from manufacturers to consumers, many had to live hand to mouth, shipping and picking up material as soon as it landed and spending far too much of their time chasing down truck arrivals. Demand aside, this rally has also been fueled by systemic production and transportation issues. From the production side, material hasn’t been readily available (due to a lack of labor, an inadequate speed of production or key-components shortages) and on the transportation side, stock may be available but they have no trucks to deliver it (some reloads have been hundreds of trucks behind in making deliveries and reports of truckers consigning to the highest bidder are rampant). As the month wore on (and in what many would consider a form of protest to them), the trajectory of increases did ease as buyers were compelled to reevaluate their needs against the high prices and, in addition, production and logistics appeared to be easing up. Although no one truly knows when this runaway train of a rally will come to an end, everyone knows that it will and we are inevitably inching closer to it. As of print, prices appear to be topping out but whether this is just a pause in buying or the beginning of a correction remains to be seen. For June, we anticipate that prices, even if they flatten out, are likely to remain firm throughout the month. As this market is still considered to be extremely volatile, please be sure to consult with your Shepley sales person on any current or upcoming jobs as events can turn quickly.
Our industry is cyclical and we know that it’s just a matter of time that the tide will change and we’ll be facing new challenges.
Clearly, suppliers have not had the ability to keep up with the pace of business and it has really upended what has long been considered normal standards of service and supply. We are grateful that our network of suppliers have done an outstanding job in keeping the flow of materials coming, but it’s a day to day, week to week and month to month challenge that requires considerable forethought and planning with our loyal customers and, despite the greatest efforts, some otherwise common products just cannot be fulfilled at this time. Although some things are out of our control, there’s no sense in burning up valuable energy and time being frustrated and lamenting what can’t be had or done. Rather, we can control our attitudes and approaches to these challenging situations and lean on one another to explore options that will lead to solutions. There are fewer things that can break the loyalty to a product faster than the inability to obtain it but, luckily for us, our industry has a knack for coming up with options in short notice. Even though the new option may not follow the same installation methods, be exact in appearance or packaged in the same manner as the product it’s replacing, for all intents and purposes it can oftentimes be a good substitute and fill the need quite well. We know that Cape Cod is an extremely traditional market that hardly ever deviates from traditional building materials, but there was a time not too long ago when the first salesman of PVC trim boards made the rounds down here and was rebuffed for the fact that we aren’t a “plastic market”. However, look at how popular Azek and Koma are now. A little longer ago (but not by much), the first Andersen Windows salesperson introduced their Narroline vinyl clad window with snap-in plastic grilles to this primed wood window, single strength glass with storm window market. Today, Andersen Windows and Doors are the king of all window brands on Cape Cod. Finally, homes built as recently as the early 1980’s didn’t have a stick of pressure treated in them, but can you imagine not using a pressure treated sill or deck now? The point is that material crises or improvements will always open the doors for alternatives and, oftentimes, the alternative is better than the original. The hard part is that non-traditional products can be very hard to get integrated on Cape Cod (as long as the traditional products are still available) and oftentimes require a little educating. To that end, we are extremely grateful to the early adopters who met the challenge of using a new product and to which we both enjoyed with mutual success. With shortages and escalating prices of traditional materials, it may be a good time to discuss with your Shepley salesperson what alternatives may currently exist for your needs.
The success of most new or different products in our area has been based upon the fact that they very closely resemble the real McCoy or that their performance far supersedes the old standard. As the tremendous demand for building products has grown and lead to supply issues, perhaps it’s time to be a little less devoted to the traditional products and be a little more open to what other options exist. Please use us as a resource and know that we will always work in your best interest by vetting out products that we know will not pass muster with our Cape Cod home-builders. Thank you for your business!