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  • Writer's pictureHeather Holcombe

Furniture Industry Delays - A Series of Events

A series of events over the last two years have caused chaos in the furniture industry. Yes, I realize the world has far more significant problems today than when a sofa arrives. However, frustration understandably sets in when a four to six-week delivery window turns into six months, then nine months, and still there's no sofa. Given these unprecedented delays in the industry, I thought it would be worth discussing them.

Waiting and Still Waiting

I have clients who've been waiting an unusually long time now for furniture to be delivered. They're not alone. This global supply chain issue began with the pandemic and is still with us, thanks to numerous factors. And lest you think it's an American problem, it's not. It's a global issue. And it's all a domino effect. If one piece of the puzzle gets delayed, everything else backs up. For example, a client's furniture piece is next in line to be produced. If the manufacturer doesn't have all of the components - let's say the fabric is on backorder - that piece gets bumped in production until the missing piece arrives. That will delay delivery, of course.

Here's a simplified look at what's causing the delays:

  • Covid-related shutdowns, furloughed employees, restrictions on movements and business openings, sick employees, and diminished capacities due to these three factors have affected manufacturing, ports, and shipping. It's a domino effect impacting goods and consumers across the globe, not just in the United States.

  • As the world stayed home during pandemic shutdowns, restrictions, and work-from-home, they turned toward their homes. Many didn't like what they saw, and the demand for remodeling and new furniture skyrocketed.

  • According to Kitchen and Bath Design News, 62% of construction business owners report seeing increased demand for home renovations. Half (49%) say it's been challenging to keep up with the remodeling demand.

  • The remodeling boom has increased the demand for new furniture, making it challenging for manufacturers to keep up.

  • There also has been an increased demand for housing, which means demand for new furnishings. Manufacturers are struggling to keep up, continuing into 2022.

  • There has been a shortage and a delay in foam products, which further complicated furniture manufacturing and delivery, including U.S.-made furniture. In early 2021, a Texas ice storm damaged a factory that makes a chemical critical to cushion foam. That pushed their lead from a typical 4 to 6 weeks to 12 to 16 weeks, and now it's an unprecedented 46-week lead!

  • In March 2021, the Washington Post reported that the previous month alone, Americans had spent an estimated $11.3 billion at furniture and home furnishing stores, up 12 percent from a year earlier. And demand has increased since then!

The good news is that not everything takes a long time. If a case piece is in stock, it might ship out in a few weeks, basically like Pre-Covid days. However, we are seeing significant delays in furniture with custom finishes or custom upholstery. You can expect about 8-9 months. I received notice from a company the other day that they are now quoting a lead time of 40 weeks!

The Value of an Interior Designer Right Now

Trust me when I say that interior designers are as frustrated as their clients. But the value of the designer-client relationship has never been more critical or pronounced.

When you work with a designer, they are your advocates and liaison with the industry. They work on your behalf to find furniture and to establish lead times. They'll also troubleshoot as needed. Lastly, they will work hard on your behalf to do what they can in these situations.


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