Bedding vendor I Love My Pillow, in cushier times.

By Alan Wolf, YSN

It’s been months since a freak winter storm shut down production of foam’s petrochemical components, yet furniture and appliance manufacturers are still clamoring for the critical cushioning and insulating material.

What gives?

According to a report by Home News Now, while production levels of foam and its chemical precursors have largely returned to normal, demand is anything but, and the pandemic-induced hunger for home goods, compounded by continuing supply chain snags, has left vendors in the lurch.

As Temper Sealy’s EVP and U.S. sales president Steve Rusing told Home News Now founding editor Clint Engel, if chemical suppliers are running at 100-percent capacity, industry demand continues to run at 120 or 130 percent of that. And although the storm that froze the Gulf Coast refineries has long since passed, it left little inventory cushion in its wake. “That’s why there was so much pain associated with the storm,” he said.

Indeed, despite improved availability of chemical and foam supplies, increased demand for bedding products deepened Tempur Sealy’s second-quarter backlog, chairman/CEO Scott Thompson said, compelling the company to delay a portion of its new Sealy U.S. product launch.

See: Tempur Sealy Delays New Product Intros

Ryan Trainer, president of the International Sleep Products Association (ISPA) concurred with Rusing’s assessment. “In a normal situation, you’d have some cushion of inventory at certain places along the supply chain,” he told the news site. “And you just don’t have that cushion — at this moment, at least.”

So if not now, when? Based on reports and conversations with bedding and upholstery execs, industry analyst Jerry Epperson is guessing September at the earliest and more likely year’s end before foam supplies return to pre-storm levels, he told Engel.

Adding to the constraints are anti-dumping petitions that have curtailed mattress imports, and transportation issues including container capacity, clogged ports and truck driver shortages that make moving foam and chemicals “much more challenging than pre-COVID,” ISPA’s Trainer said.

Unlike Epperson, Trainer is hesitant to even hazard a guess as to when foam production will catch up with demand, especially now that hurricane season is upon us. “I think everybody is trying really hard to bring production back up to full capacity as quickly as they can, meet immediate customer needs and then try to build some inventory,” he said.

Read the full Home News Now report here.