Business at Columbus hardware store ‘through the roof’ despite 200 percent increase in price of lumber

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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – While most local businesses have struggled during the pandemic, hardware stores like New Home Building Stores in Columbus, have been doing well.

“We’ve had business going through the roof these past couple of months,” said Goodloe Chilcutt, the store’s manager of business development.

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Chilcutt says they’ve had no shortage of contractors coming through for supplies for the numerous home renovation projects that have gone on during the pandemic.

“[The pandemic] gave them time to look at their house and think, ‘It’s time to do some work in the backyard and build a new deck here, fix up the front,'” he said. “And that’s really been great for our business.”

But while Chilcutt says they didn’t lose any employees, he says COVID-19 has led to staffing shortages at area sawmills.

“It’s caused some mill shortages,” he said. “With not having enough staff at the mills to produce the lumber and then the increase in new housing starts, demand for the lumber has increased prices drastically. About 200 percent.”

OSB plywood is one of the store’s best-selling products. Before COVID-19, Chilcutt says it went for $8 per sheet. Now, the price has gone up to $40 per sheet.

The price increase hasn’t decreased sales.

“The increased demand has raised the price, so mills are selling their lumber as fast as they can make it,” Chilcutt said. “We’re selling it from our yard as fast as we can get it.”

But it has increased the time it takes them to manufacture and ship products. Chilcutt estimates that an order that should go out within 5 to 10 days now could take 10 to 20 weeks.

“We’ve been encouraging our builders to come and meet with us far in advance before their building starts,” he said. “To sit down with the prints and go over the prints with us and the materials they may need.”

However, Chilcutt believes that as more people get the COVID-19 vaccine, things can begin to get back to how they used to be.

“The mills will be able to produce the quantity of lumber that they had in the past, availability will become less of an issue,” he said. “I can’t say that I think it’s ever going to be like it was in the past, but I’m not a market analyst, I’m just a happy lumber salesman.”