Customers are waiting up to six months for their furniture deliveries, HFA’s CEO said.
By Alan Wolf, YSN
A gummed-up supply chain compounded by unprecedented consumer demand is pushing back furniture orders as much as six months, according to the Home Furnishings Association (HFA), a BrandSource partner.
Speaking to USA Today, HFA CEO Mark Schumacher described 2020 as a “crazy” rollercoaster ride for the furniture industry that could continue non-stop until the middle of the year or later. Laying the groundwork was a mass migration away from the confines of cities as the coronavirus took hold. The resulting frenzy to fill all the empty new homes led to record sales last year for furniture retailers that more than made up for intermittent quarantine closures.
“We’ve never seen this type of a surge,” Schumacher told the newspaper. Ironically, “The biggest frustration for home furnishings retailers right now is that business is good. And they wonder how much better it could be if we had all the product we needed.”
Indeed, furniture inventory was already tight before the pandemic due to import tariffs imposed by President Trump, and worsened after Asian factories closed amid outbreaks of COVID, he recalled. But even after suppliers resumed production, the sudden gush of output overwhelmed transportation systems, leading to container shortages, clogged ports and a dearth of trains and trucks.
“It’s kind of clogged up all the way through the system,” Schumacher observed. “Some of the lead times right now are just mind blowing. There are stores that are writing sales for product that won’t be in the customer’s hands for six months.”
Schumacher believes it will be mid-year before the industry can clearly assess the state of the supply chain. “Everything is cranking toward that,” he said, although “everybody is realizing it’s not going to be fixed overnight.”
But Seth Weisblatt, director of home furnishings merchandising for AVB/BrandSource, believes there are still opportunities out there for those who seize them. “The cliche in 2021 is that business is likely to be highly constrained for much of the year,” he told YSN. “As consumers keep driving demand in the home industry, savvy retailers are thinking of new ways to solve the product shortages.”
BrandSource in particular “has partnered with several vendors to help with a different merchandising strategy,” Weisblatt said — one of “keeping our retail partners in stock and in business.”
Looking ahead, HFA’s Schumacher echoed last week’s observations by Whirlpool CEO Marc Bitzer that the pandemic has led to fundamental behavioral changes that favor home-related industries and won’t likely ebb even after COVID is quelled. “I really believe that the focus on home is here to stay, [that] home is truly the focus of a huge chunk of our lives, and people are looking at their homes differently now because of this [pandemic],” he said.
“That bodes well for our industry, but it doesn’t mean we can just depend on that,” Schumacher cautioned. “It’s going to really take a huge focus on that customer experience, working within this different dynamic, and really managing the supply chain differently and better.”
“But what an opportunity,” he added.
Click here for the complete USA Today article.
BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, furniture, mattress and CE dealers.