By Alan Wolf
The furniture industry broke a consecutive five-month decline in new orders in July, when orders for residential furniture rose 6 percent over the year-ago period.
The good news came from High Point, N.C.-based accountant and consultant SmithLeonard, in its latest monthly poll of furniture manufacturers and distributors. The firm also found that shipments edged up 1 percent year-over-year, also ending a five-month run of declines.
But before we break out the champagne glasses, only 53 percent of respondents reported increased orders in July and shipments were down 12 percent from June, although principal Ken Smith attributed that to the industry’s traditional Independence Week shutdown.
Still, even with the July lift, orders were down 2 percent year to date and were lower for 67 percent of respondents for the balance of 2019, the survey showed.
“July results for orders created a good change of scenery,” Smith observed. “We have continued to use the term ‘choppy’ as a description for business conditions and we continue to hear terms like that when talking to people.”
Another concern: falling consumer confidence, as evidenced by September’s Conference Board report. “Tariff and trade talks, possible inflation and, of course, the political news for presidential candidates, as well as the anti- and pro-Trump conversations, do not put most people in a great confidence mode,” Smith wrote.
He also expressed continued trepidation over consumer spend on the tech category, whether through payment plans or service fees, which “leaves even less for our products” when confidence drops.
On the brighter side, new residential housing sales were up 18 percent in August and the Conference Board data suggested slower but positive economic growth that will avoid a recession, Smith said.
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