Economy Continues to Vex Furniture Biz

Furniture Today’s Top 100 rankings reflect consumer concerns

By Janet Weyandt, YSN

If the furniture industry was hoping the news from 2023 would signal an improvement from the uncertainty of 2022, they’re likely disappointed.

In its newly released “2024 Top 100 U.S. Furniture Retailers” report, available here, business publication Furniture Today (FT) found that the difficulties the industry faced in 2022 only increased in 2023. Instead of the turnaround some pundits predicted, the news this year is more of the same.

Combined sales for the top 100 rankings, based on last year’s revenue, came in a $56.1 billion, which is a 7.4% drop from 2022’s $60.6 billion and an 8.2% decline from 2021. The conventional furniture­ sector — ­defined as retailers with a traditional mix of furniture, bedding and decorative accessories and possibly appliances and CE — is enduring an even heavier slide: an 8.8% drop in sales for 2023 over the previous year.

The number of furniture and mattress retailers coping with year-over-year declines jumped from 47% last year to 83%, as the sales frenzy of the post-COVID period becomes harder to match.

What’s causing the industry’s unease? Just like last year, the contributing factors include consumer concerns over inflation, high interest rates and the tight housing market, the publication reported. And, as YSN’s resident economic observer Joe Higgins has argued, the situation’s unlikely to change until inflation eases, the Fed lowers the prime lending rate and mortgages and homes become more affordable.

The good news, according to FT’s Editor in Chief Bill McLoughlin, is that the rankings negate the notion, touted by “industry experts,” that large chains are taking share from independents. As McLoughlin noted, of the list’s 50 largest companies, 21 showed double-digit declines, while only 18 smaller retailers (those in the bottom 50) experienced comparable downturns.

Among the few top 100 retailers experiencing sales gains in 2023, several were from the specialty category (i.e., feature a specialized product mix), including Crate & Barrel, Lovesac, Arhaus and IKEA, along with BrandSource member Gardner-White.

Ashley maintained the No. 1 spot on the chart, although sales dropped by 2.5% and brought the store network below the $6 billion mark. There were 20 Ashley licensees on last year’s top 100 list. Williams-Sonoma placed second despite a precipitous 10.6% sales decline, and third place went to IKEA US, the 54-store franchise which enjoyed a 6% gain last year.

FT estimates that it’s Top 100 rankings account for 81% of the entire U.S. retail furniture market, which it pegs at $69.3 billion, down 5.7% year over year.

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