Market Minute: Amidst the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute, underlying strong demand on both sides of the border seems to be catching buyers unawares on many fronts. There are reports this week that some mills in B.C. are extending order files to unprecedented levels. In their February 8, 2017 Industry Update, CIBC Capital Markets describes dramatic lumber price increases since February 1 as “an encouraging sign for producers’ ability to pass on duties to U.S. consumers when tariffs are actually imposed.. considering we are only in partial retroactive territory, and we still have no idea how high Commerce will set initial duties..”
There are many joys in blogging. We appreciate that cyberspace offers bloggers virtually unlimited latitude in expression and range of viewpoints. The medium can be a useful tool in support of business and development of customer relationships. In these days of heightened political sensitivities and polarized opinions, it’s evident that messaging via any medium creates perception of opportunity as well as risk. Measuring effectiveness may call for nuance. It’s interesting to read of the early feedback on the Super Bowl ad of our friends at 84 Lumber.
Of course daily now we’re exposed to direct messaging of folks marching in the streets, advertising a particular point of view or belief on, what is often a hastily-scratched message on cardboard. Through six years, I have found Harderblog to be a positive experience and useful medium for periodic messaging in support of lumber marketing here at Dakeryn Industries. Some might suggest that the messaging here is no more effective than if I decided to march in the streets with a placard advertising personal beliefs in support of the value-added services we provide. But then I took heart in affirmation of my beliefs on that score when I saw the image below. My only suggestion is that if I were a sign-carrying marcher in that parade I’d suggest a small revision to make it read: If you believe in lumber, think Harder…
image source: brobible.com
“Tune in!” shouted Mike Foley, Certified Speaking Professional and founder of Clarity Central, keynote speaker yesterday at the Northwestern Building Products EXPO in Bloomington, Minnesota. That’s how Mike suggests we differentiate ourselves in a world where everyone is distracted, overwhelmed, overworked – and no one is present. “Tune in to your kid, your boss, your partner, your customer,” said Mike, while noting the attention span of a millennial (8 seconds) is shorter than the attention span of a goldfish (9 seconds).
In his breakfast presentation, Mike expanded on his four keys to “letting go” and “losing the junk in our trunk”: grow your comfort zone, find your balance, manage your mind, lighten your load. It was a fast-paced workshop. One memorable round table exercise quickly revealed how growth can only occur outside the comfort zone, in “the stress zone”. How to manage your mind? “Become a fine connoisseur of the present moment! Where do you live? In the past, present, or future? How does this affect your life? How would it change if you lived moment to moment?” His segment on the importance of credibility and balance – “responding skillfully” – was perhaps most relevant to many attendees engaged in lumber trading.
While Dakeryn has been an associate member of the Northwestern Lumber Association for a number of years, this was our first time attending and exhibiting at the Northwestern Building Products EXPO. Held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Bloomington, MN, the show was tight and upbeat. Virtually every key US distributor in the region was represented. Most retail dealers in attendance acknowledged that business was ticking along – unseasonably steady for January. While the show’s slogan was A World of Opportunities, the majority of Midwest lumber dealers we spoke with openly expressed apprehension over looming cross-border trade constraints. Most-asked question: “What’s going to happen?”
Lauren Chimko, Lumber Trader
With Northwestern Lumber Association President Cody Nuernberg at the breakfast session
This year, Dakeryn has decided against buying TV ad time for the Super Bowl. The decision is based on analysis of how to most effectively nurture the relationships with our valued customers and supplying mills. It could be that the $5 million-plus cost for a 30-second ad played into the decision as well. But that hasn’t deterred 84 Lumber. According to this report at Adweek, 84 Lumber will make its Super Bowl advertising debut just before halftime of this year’s event – the only brand to purchase more than a minute of airtime for a single spot.
We’re told the purpose of the ad is to launch a year-long campaign focused on recruitment, targeting men aged 20 to 29. According to the report, 84 Lumber includes some 250 locations across 30 states and made Forbes’ 2016 list of “Largest Private Companies in America.” It is also one of the biggest such businesses run by a woman; Hardy Magerko was chosen by her father at the age of 27 to lead the company he founded in 1956.
Our industry is going through a period of extreme disruption. And I’ve always preferred to be the one doing the disrupting, rather than the one being disrupted. But to do that, we need to hire and train people differently. We need to cast a wider net, and to let the world know that 84 Lumber is a place for people who don’t always fit nicely into a box.
– Maggie Magerko
According to weekend reports, the US International Trade Commission determined Friday there is indication of injury from imports of softwood lumber products from Canada. Perhaps the market is sensing that a resolution will ultimately be found in a negotiated, managed trade agreement, but probably not before duties are in place. By May? In the face of the looming threat of retroactive duties, cross-border shipments continue largely unabated as mills and distributors weigh decisions impacting trading activity into February.
Meanwhile, Random Lengths reports word of “sizable inventories in US reloads”. No doubt we’ll soon find out if this is the case. If history is any guide, building mountains of inventory in advance of duties/export taxes/quota is anything but a speculative “no-brainer”. We’ve all seen the movie. Still, dealer demand for lumber in the United States, albeit hand-to-mouth – has been surprisingly buoyant so far this winter. Certainly some items are in abundant supply – on both sides of the border. But in this uncertain environment, over time, it seems any items in tight supply today would become even scarcer when Canadian shipments are eventually constrained.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Commerce investigations continue; the countervailing duty determination is expected February 20, while the preliminary antidumping duty determination is expected May 4.
Memorial South Park, Vancouver – New Year’s Day
Here are 17 questions that Harderblog will be watching in 2017, in search of answers:
- (See Question #1 from last year)
- Will Trump really build a wall and have Mexico pay for it?
- Will the softwood lumber dispute have found a satisfactory resolution?
- Will anticipated countervailing duties on Canadian softwood lumber shipments to the US be applied retroactively?
- Will Trump really pull the US out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement?
- In the face of “Fake News” and misinformation that poses distraction to sound decision formulation on many fronts, will lumber dealers lean more heavily than ever on trusted wholesale relationships to interpret market changes?
- Will Trump really pull the US out of the Iran Nuclear Deal?
- Will there be 100 million consumers shopping in augmented reality (AR) by the end of 2017?
- Will a measure of sanity return to the Vancouver housing market?
- Will the record number of homeless people identified in the City of Vancouver’s 2016 Homeless Count be broken again in 2017?
- Will tensions with China escalate over trade and Taiwan?
- In light of increased hacking of connected products, will questions surrounding cyber security have become a make-or-break issue by the end of 2017?
- Is there any indication that by the end of 2017 a future of driverless transport trucks could promise enhanced just-in-time lumber deliveries?
- Will anybody care if the Vancouver Canucks fail to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
- Will BC Premier Christy Clark’s Liberal Party secure a fifth term in May?
- Will the global crises surrounding issues of displaced peoples/refugees have eased anywhere?
- Will general predictions forecasting a “bumpy ride” for 2017 come to fruition?
Of the Top Ten Questions for 2016 posed at Harderblog one year ago, the first five have been satisfactorily answered for us:
1. Will the Trump presidential campaign have staying power beyond March?
See November election results.
2. Will the US make history by electing a woman as president for the first time?
3. Will BC softwood log exports to Mainland China eclipse BC softwood lumber exports?
For the answer to this question, we turned to Russ Taylor, President, WOOD MARKETS. “Interesting question, but lumber export volumes to China have always been much higher than logs. The gap is narrowing, but lumber export volumes are still much higher.” Russ confirms BC softwood exports to China through October as follows: Logs = 3.0 million m3 vs 2.43 million m3 in 2015 (+23%); Lumber = 5.0 million m3 vs 5.49 million m3 in 2015 (-9%). Of course, log exports even south of the border continue to be a contentious issue.
4. Will a new Softwood Lumber Agreement be reached between Canada and the United States before the standstill period ends October 13?
No. By early October, we were told talks had entered the days of magical thinking. And while the US Lumber Coalition’s submission of their petition to the US Department of Commerce was predictable, the November 25 timing caught markets by surprise. At least one forest analyst suggested “it put a whole new spin on Black Friday.”
5. Is this the year virtual reality goes mainstream?
As the cost of development falls, we’re told virtual reality is in fact beginning to move into the mainstream. However, it’s reported that most console headsets are still “device-exclusive”. And flaws in these controllers actually tempered demand in 2016, leading Tech Digest to ask will virtual reality finally become mainstream in 2017?
ex Nanaimo (Nov 2016)
Slow boat to China (Nov 2016)
According to news that’s filtering through to us in the great White North, these be challenging days as friends and relatives to the south wrestle with decisions in advance of November elections, said by some to be aimed at “making America great again.” Say what? Again? Let us echo a Toronto ad agency’s campaign that helps cut through the negativity in play.
Having just returned this morning from the classy LBM Advantage Forest Products Conference, I was also reminded just how invigorating it is to connect with people face to face. It’s been said that the best social network is a table and two chairs, or, in the case of the Dakeryn table inside the packed White River Ballroom at the beautiful JW Marriott Indianapolis, a table and six chairs! Despite election angst, dealers appear to be cautiously optimistic about business for the balance of the year. While bullish on 2017, the extreme hand-to-mouth buying patterns in evidence suggest an emphasis on risk management through December. Coming from B.C., where we are inundated with SLA headlines, it’s interesting to note there so far seems to be little weight given to possible cross-border softwood lumber trade constraints in relation to market impact.
Upon arriving home late last night, my wife relayed this story after picking up our five-year-old from Kindergarten yesterday:
Evie: “Mommy, I made a new friend from my class today”
“Oh? How did that happen?”
“He came up to me and said ‘Evie, give me all your Bunny Crackers.'”
Indy Sunrise (18 Oct 2016)