Q: With a number of factors such as supply and cost weighing on the market, what can lumber dealers expect from their treated lumber supplies moving forward?
A: Our entire industry has been challenged the past 15 months. What we are experiencing is unprecedented and due to many factors. These market conditions were not created by the lumber mills, by the trucking companies, or by your treated supplier. Overall demand has increased to a level which the supply chain has not been able to sustain.
Yes, COVID was and is a huge influencer to the increasing demand. Due to the pandemic, not only did focus shift to the consumer’s DIY projects but we also are experiencing labor shortages, stimulus money to our consumers, lower interest rates and housing starts continue to climb. As demand continues at record paces, each supplier is faced with many challenges, yet we are confident in meeting our customer’s expectations this year just as we did in 2020.
What some may not know is the southern yellow pine market has experienced an influx of inquiries due to other species not being available or priced even higher. Many are substituting pine for their needs which has created an even higher demand for a product which was crippled in 2020. Also, the trucking industry is experiencing huge driver shortages so far this year. Transportation issues are causing lead times to increase on a weekly basis. Lead times will continue to be extended until a resolution is found. This will be an ongoing concern for the remainder of the year.
Because of these two factors, along with the increase in normal demand, inventory is scarce and getting the treated lumber loads delivered is very difficult. The challenges we all faced last year have carried over to the new year with even more vigor. Yet our focus in 2021 remains the same as it does every year…on our customers.
Q: How has Culpeper responded to pandemic-related shortages of pressure-treated wood over the past year?
A: I know the question is about pressure treated wood because that is what we manufacture. Yet, these shortages are global and no product is immune. Many other products, both in our industry and others, are experiencing historical pricing and shortages. The supply chain across our world is burdened to say the least. To answer your question regarding pressure-treated wood shortages, we ended last year and entered 2021 not knowing what the future of our industry looked like. Last year saw tremendous strain put on everyone in the LBM business. We knew our customers were tired and stressed and we understood they would look to us for a solution.
Our initial focus was to increase our inventory levels at each of our plants. That was the big question mark last year and so we had to ensure we were starting strong. Due to trucking issues, we also have been working on securing a dedicated fleet. The driver shortage is not going away. So we wanted to have plans in place to assist with our customer’s orders.
Also, we have placed a huge emphasis on communication. In uncertain times, it would be easy to hide, ignore phone calls and emails. Yet our team has done an amazing job staying committed. Our customers depend on us for real information and so we have sent out periodic updates addressing availability, market pricing and forecasted lead times. While these were not always easy to send out, we felt our customers needed honest answers so they could make the best decisions for their businesses. 2020 was hard. 2021 is proving to be just as difficult. Yet we firmly believe we will be able to supply our customers to the level they have come to expect from Culpeper Wood.
Q: Last year, your company greatly expanded and enhanced its website. How has the updated online presence affected the way you serve your dealers?
A: We all know the world is changing. More business is done online now than I ever thought I would see in my lifetime. Our leadership team knew we had to implement a new business model to expand our online presence. The new website was launched in July 2020 and the response has been overwhelming. Our goal was to provide a website which was informational and educational to not just our customers, but also their customers. We made a profound effort to leave the science out of it (because that is our job) and to relay the information which the homeowners need to know. Thru our new site, you can access product information, education resources including how-to videos, outdoor living inspiration and even customized playlists for any occasion. This is not just a site about pressure-treated wood. Culpeperwood.com encompasses the entire outdoor living realm.
Looking ahead at our online presence we realize the need for an e-commerce platform and are in the early stages of that design. The pandemic certainly reinforced the focus to the online world. Ensuring our company is on the leading edge has become a priority for Culpeper Wood. Our customers will see more coming from Culpeper Wood in the near future.