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Cherry sales struggle to stay on top

While retail suppliers say they don’t foresee a drop in cherry sales in the near future, they have mixed reaction about sales fluctuating during the last several years. But all tend to agree that the bright and vibrantly hued hardwood is still a prevailing seller compared to other domestic species where those qualities are influencing current trends.

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Mike Greeley of Northwest Lumber in Indianapolis believes sales have increased in the last year, particularly with furniture makers, because of design trends shifting towards warmer tones.

“It’s a beautiful wood that is very nice wood to work with. It takes finish well, but you sometimes have to sand it down before you apply anything,” Greeley says.

On the other hand, Louis Irion, of Irion Lumber in Wellsboro, Pa., says sales aren’t so great, blaming the economic downturn for pushing sales overseas in 2008, leaving the U.S. with the picked-over selections that woodworkers turn down.

“[Sales] are not great. Cherry has definitely slowed down for us. We’re selling more of specialty stock, heavy and wide doing well, but overall it’s still pretty slow. But there are signs it’s coming back. When you look the market and you see walnut and mahogany are getting harder to get, the pendulum is about to swing in favor of cherry,” says Irion.

“That’s just my opinion, but it’s based on the fact that price has come down because the best logs have been shipped overseas since 2008. The European market had changed from wanting walnut and white oak to wanting cherry. What was left of domestic has been of such very poor quality, some people couldn’t even use it. So it’s gone from a sellers’ to a buyers’ market.”

Rocky Mehta, of West Penn Hardwoods in Olean, N.Y., says sales are about the same as they were last year.

“It’s been a pretty steady seller. It’s an attractive wood to work with because it takes a variety of stains well, from light to dark. Cherry is probably one of the most popular woods in its price range. It’s widely available where we are, but the sawmills have not been cutting it as much, so that probably has had some effect on the market that doesn’t necessarily reflect a drop consumer demand,” says Mehta.

On average, FAS 4/4 cherry currently sells between $5 and 5.98/bf, and higher for wider, more figured boards.

This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue.

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