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December in the lumber business used to be relaxed and subdued – with traders off for the holidays, snowflakes slowing jobsites, mills taking maintenance downtime, and dealers paring inventories to save on taxes. Well, that didn’t happen in 2020 and 2021 was a “rinse and repeat”! As Aerosmith sang in the mid-70’s: “it’s the same old story, same old song and dance, my friend”.

Just when we thought our primary supply chokepoint had narrowed to EWP products, our industry has spun out of control in numerous areas.  Demand for Southern Pine is overwhelming supply – prompting panic buying and steep price hikes. OSB and plywood prices have shot up due to acute supply shortages and transportation issues. Various hardwoods, trim boards and mouldings jump in and out of availability as buyers switch to species and profiles they can get their hands on.

My first reaction was the same as yours, “Oh No, Not Again!”  How do we help our builders manage their budgets and schedules with this kind of unpredictability?  And how can our team maintain sanity and morale as we chase ghost materials all day and constantly have to deliver unwelcome news (“No, I don’t have any material to sell you”, “No, I don’t know when our supplier’s truck will arrive”, and “No, I’m not joking, that is the real lead time”).  I guess we’ll take supply issues over a lack of demand (like 2009), but these challenges and stresses are real and take their toll.

So, what have we learned these past two years to help us navigate 2022 with (perhaps) more wisdom and peace?  Here is our Top 10 list (what is yours?):

  1. Plan ahead – keep asking about current lead times and get in each line early.
  2. Promise only what you can control and deliver –  We’ll share what our vendors tell us, but we can’t deliver until it shows up at our yard.
  3. Long-term relationships matter – especially in times of shortages and allocation. Dance with the one that brought you.
  4. Don’t assume anything – Surprises are so frequent they should no longer surprise us.
  5. Less price sensitivity – it disappears when product is not available (as long as interest rates stay low and money keeps flowing).
  6. Sell what we have, use what will work – where possible be flexible about switching to other products or species.
  7. Build downtime into your build schedule –  Extended build times have opportunity costs, impacting builder profits and customer expectations.
  8. Some products are simply not available – regardless of how much we plead or are willing to pay.
  9. The Favor Chip – Most chips for special treatment have been cashed in, so customers should prepare to wait in line with everyone else.
  10. Hold on loosely – One more classic rock reference, courtesy of .38 Special: – “Just hold on loosely, but don’t let go, if you cling too tightly, you’re gonna lose control”.

One of our lumber buyers, Todd Born, adds another reminder that “patience is a virtue”.  It is indeed, but what a painful virtue to acquire!  Thank you for your continued patience and support as we row these rough waters together.

Please let us know how we can help make it smoother for you.  That is certainly our desire, and to the extent possible and in our control, we will do our best for you and your customers.  May 2022 be a very blessed and healthy year for you, your family and your business!

All of our companies and people are committed to serving you well and helping you Build to Last.

Dave Reichert
President
Davis-Hawn Lumber
Davis-Hawn Architectural Millworks
Lynn Floyd Architectural Millwork
Architectural Carpentry Materials