The majority of US lumber and panel retailers have grown their sales during 2005, according to the latest retail outlook survey by industry newsletter Random Lengths.

Some 57% of 305 survey respondents said their wood products sales were up compared to 2004, but higher fuel and transportation costs reduced profits at many companies.

The survey found 54% of respondents had experienced higher earnings during 2005, compared with 77% in the 2004 survey.

Retailers in the southern and western states reported better sales and have higher expectations for 2006 than their counterparts in the mid west and north-east.

Three-quarters of respondents in the south and west said 2005 sales had topped 2004, while less than half in the north-east and mid west had higher sales.

Nationwide, only one in four retailers interviewed said they were more optimistic about business prospects compared to a year ago.