Recent snowstorms have taken some momentum out of the market, but not enough to make any marked difference as demand continues to outpace supply. Business is surging on and, as long as it’s humanly possible to push aside the snow and continue building, no one is anticipating any breaks in the action. For most of us that lament how hard the lumber business can be under a normal sales pace in winter time, this is a bittersweet situation: sales are great, but the lack of any significant weather-induced break has worsened lead times, further exacerbating the cycle that we’ve been in for months in which there is no “catching up”. We’re fortunate that Cape Cod doesn’t normally get the snow accumulation that the rest of New England does, but it also comes at a price as our centrally located suppliers often have to shut down and cancel deliveries as they anticipate and dig out from the snow fall, leaving Cape Cod dealers and their customers frustrated and anxious for their material. Nonetheless, we can say that all are coping very well considering the circumstances, and perhaps it’s because there is enough work out there to keep us all occupied. March is our unofficial “building season” kick-off month and, although the game has been in full play for some time, we do anticipate business to ramp up even more, providing that Old Man Winter doesn’t take his sweet time pulling away from us. As of print, the market is still very volatile and pricing continues to try it’s best to punch upward. There has been a lot of buying in recent months in anticipation of this spring, with hundreds of truckloads of lumber scheduled to hit their target dealers. With a little bit of luck, we hope that the arrival of these loads will somewhat depressurize the market. In the meantime please remain in close contact with your Shepley sales person about your current and upcoming jobs as the market seemingly changes on a daily basis.
Like the weather, making a prediction of what the lumber market may do in coming months is actually pretty easy: study some indicators, look at your history and make your prediction. However, also like the weather, getting it right is another matter. To this point, we often correlate the inaccuracy of meteorologists to lumber traders. Nonetheless, if there is one prediction that we have down pat, it’s that no one’s crystal ball is crystal-clear enough to know what will happen next (or when) so the unexpected can be expected. Although that’s not a comforting statement to hear when prices are soaring and shortages abound, we do work in a world of markets that are influenced by a myriad of situations that can turn any of one them, at any time, around 180 degrees. We actually need to expect change and plan for it. Internally, we feel that the best manner to prepare for what’s next is constant interdepartmental communication, which allows all parties the chance to share their market perspective and provides a forum in which, collectively, we move forward with what will be the best plan of action for all. Externally, we have an obligation to give you guidance on situations that may affect your project, as soon as possible. In kind, you can help by giving us advance notice of your upcoming projects so that we can react. There is a lot of planning involved with ordering lumber, as it usually takes weeks (and oftentimes months) for stock to arrive after a purchase order has been placed. Organized buyers must first determine needed levels, then search for material suitable in dimension, quantity, quality, lead time and price. Under ideal situations, it’s a non-eventful process but it can become complicated very fast, especially when dealing with a market that is as unpredictable as the one we are in now.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited for saying that “the only constant in life is change”.
Another constant is human nature, which is generally afraid of change and is comfortable dealing with the known. As we continue on in a world that is full of unknowns, please help us help you by staying in touch with your Shepley sales person and communicating your needs from the field. We often are told to “buy it if you need it”, but knowing what it is that we “need” can make a profoundly positive difference to price and availability. Thank you for your business.