WRITER | LIZ JERORE
PHOTO | HOME CABINETRY AND INTERIORS
After hours of Googling the internet, carefully constructing your Pinterest board, and consulting with your friends, you finally have buy-in from your significant other to update the living room!
In typical furniture-shopping mode, you visit a store to look at the sofas, checking for comfort, fabric options, and durability. Choosing your favorite swatches, you haul samples home for further discussion.
Agreement reached, you are excited to purchase your new furniture! While placing the order, you are informed that your sofa will arrive sometime in October 2022. Ten months?! Yep. (It just happened to me.)
What is going on with the furniture industry? The same thing that has impacted our entire supply chain in every industry worldwide.
The situation is complex, as we are experiencing a domino effect that began in March 2020 with the first pandemic shut down. A simplified explanation breaks down like this:
- High Consumer Demand: After a nearly six-month lockdown, we experienced a pent-up need to spend money and try to find “normal” again. We had not been dining out, attending sports or concerts, or going on vacations. That disposable income was being redirected toward home improvements and created tremendous demand.
- Production Impacted by Pandemic: Manufacturing facilities had to follow protocol and maintain physical distance between employees. Depending upon the size of the plant, manufacturers had to reduce up to 70% of their workforce on the floor, resulting in production slowdowns. Most attempted to keep up production by running multiple shifts, but this was complicated by exposure to Covid and quarantine requirements – and it takes up to eight people to build a sofa! More loss of labor. More delay.
- Labor Shortage: There are a number of reasons companies are experiencing labor shortages during Covid; it’s a complicated issue and one we won’t get into here. Just know that employers are still struggling to maintain staffing to meet consumer demands.
- Raw Material Shortages: It is not just furniture manufacturing plants running at lower capacity, either. We are experiencing a shortage in the production of raw materials as well, from both domestic and overseas sources.
- The Unexpected: There continues to be a shortage of foam due to hurricane damage at offshore sites where the chemical TDI is produced. This chemical is used to make polyurethane. Also, the increase in N95 masks and other PPE production has impacted the furniture industry’s ability to secure nonwoven polypropylene.
- Shipping Delays: A severe shortage of truck drivers makes it more complex and time-consuming to move both supplies and finished goods. This especially impacts those who live in less-populated areas. For instance, Ethan Allen’s typical sofa lead time is 16-18 weeks for production. Their website now indicates that if you live farther than 150 miles from a design center, you should expect an additional 6–8-week delivery delay.
What Now? While it may take months to catch up with the demand, it is not all gloom and doom! There are options for immediate delivery. Check with your local stores and inquire about their stocked items that may be purchased off the floor.
Be Flexible: If you are willing to rethink your design plan and incorporate the store’s stocked fabric and furniture style, you will be able to complete your project much sooner!
Option: Higher-end consignment stores are a tremendous resource for furniture and accessories. These stores are very discriminating in the quality and condition of items they accept, so most inventory is like new and ready to go out the door.
Online: Most furniture websites are experiencing the same delays that stores are. You’ll likely find that “Out of Stock” is a recurring theme with some of the most popular furniture websites. You may also find that many no longer accept returns.
Those in the industry aren’t sure when things will return to pre-Covid conditions, but one thing is certain: the merchants, sales, and delivery personnel are all under the same pressure as you, the customer. Please practice patience and kindness with those working their hardest to make and deliver your new living room.