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Lumber prices plummet all the way back to 2018 levels

August 9, 2021, 1:30 PM UTC

This spring lumber prices went on a historic run—shooting up over 300%—but that’s all over now. Last week marked the 10th consecutive drop in wood prices.

Not only are the gains completely wiped out, we’re all the way back to 2018 levels. Last week, the “cash” market price fell to $472 per thousand board feet, according to data provided to Fortune by Fastmarkets Random Lengths, an industry trade publication. That’s down 69% from its $1,515 all-time high in late May—and 19% lower than its $582 peak price in the summer of 2018.

That cash market price is what sawmills charge distributors. In other words, it’s a wholesale price—not what you’d pay in the aisles of Home Depot or Lowe’s. But the latter, Fortune finds, is also finally starting to see big swings down.

“You are starting to see retail reflect wholesale now,” Ashley Boeckholt, cofounder of MaterialsXchange, tells Fortune.

Many retailers bought lumber during the height—when it was well over $1,000—and were hesitant to off-load inventory below that price. Others resisted dropping prices, fearing that wholesale costs would surge again.

“Most [retailers] had a high-cost pile of inventory. It was difficult not to have inventory with the price move we had and the velocity at which it corrected. Many had hoped the market would come back and mitigate this, but it doesn’t seem to be doing that,” Boeckholt said.

The industry consensus that the lumber run is over, said Boeckholt, coupled with increased competition (retailers lowering prices to entice DIYers) is why lumber buyers are seeing more retail relief. This is exactly what Michael Goodman, director of specialty products at Sherwood Lumber, told Fortune last month would happen: Each wholesale price drop—which started after May 28—will take “about 60 to 90 days to get” priced in on the retail side.

What’s ahead for lumber? Retail prices are expected to continue to fall. The only potential snag? This rough wildfire season. Prices could rise again if the fires lead to more sawmill closures.

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