Tips from local designers and businesses to manage the furniture shortage | Home & Garden
Want a new sofa? Or chairs? Or virtually any type of household item? Then you’re in tune with the rest of America. The ongoing pandemic is forcing some people to spend more time at home than ever before. And after looking at furniture that has seen better days, many people want something new and fresh.
But they might have to wait up to a year to get it, and industry insiders don’t expect the situation to improve in the near future. Some think 2023 might turn out better, but no one can really be sure.
The good news is that the design industry, including local businesses, is coming up with creative workarounds and furniture customers are moving away from expectations of instant gratification.
Wendy Dowling, interior designer and owner of Bed & Bath Affair, Lancaster, reports wait times for upholstered items of nine to 12 months.
“And here we’re not even talking about imports,” she says. “The materials we use come mostly from southern states, and the problem is that people haven’t returned to work after the shutdowns end. I understand how frustrated my clients are when they learn how long it will take until the new furniture is delivered. … Fortunately, however, our customers are exceptionally patient. Many have been with us for years and trust us to do our best.
David Lyall, who owns a bespoke furniture and interior design showroom in the city of Lancaster, agrees with Dowling.
“We, too, find our customers very understanding after explaining the long waits,” he says. “Yeah, they could probably get a couch or recliner right away if any beige version would do. There is still stock there from before the pandemic.
But many people want something beyond beige, and custom orders take time.
“Custom design always takes longer than buying something straight from the showroom, and people know that. Of course, their first reaction is dismay when told about current wait times, but then they accept that it’s better to wait than to settle for something they’ll probably end up hating.
Work around shortages
What do designers suggest to those of us hoping to circumvent supply chain delays?
Todd Lehman, president of Home Interiors in Lancaster and Camp Hill, suggests buying items right off the showroom floor.
“Thanks to excellent relationships with suppliers, we have quite a large stock,” he says. “But – like virtually every category these days – grab it if you see something you need and like. Don’t wait, or it will be gone.
Last year Interiors Home was named Retailer of the Year by the National Home Furnishings Association, beating 7,000 stores nationwide. The furniture samples in stock go beyond the standard beige or black leather sofa or recliner. Brand names include Stickley, Hooker, Serta, Flexsteel and EKornes.
Lehman also recommends turning to local and regional craftsmen to reduce delays. Interiors Home, for example, looks to Amish artisans for quality items.
Buying used furniture is another option, and auction houses and consignment stores are reporting strong sales. Karl Boltz of Boltz Auction Co., Lancaster, says mid-century modern, in particular, is selling like hot cakes.
“But pretty much anything for the home is in demand,” Boltz says. “To facilitate the process, we have launched a matchmaking service. For example, we will call someone who has expressed interest in a certain type of rug, when we get a match. »
However, used sofas and chairs may need reupholstering, and designers warn that they could end up costing as much as new ones. In addition, the upholsterers are overwhelmed with work, which leads to long waits.
But vintage wood furniture, whether purchased at auctions, consignment stores, or sites like Etsy, 1stdibs, and Chairish, is often of excellent quality and holds its value. However, when buying online, insist that sellers provide plenty of photos from all angles to ensure there is no damage.
A perfect storm
So how did the home furnishings industry end up in such a predicament? Lehman calls it a perfect storm. It all started with the skyrocketing demand for homewares, he says. People wanted something new, and while the pandemic caused financial hardship for some households, others had excess discretionary income due to lack of recreational activities, as well as government-provided stimulus checks.
At the same time, many Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai factories producing wooden crate items, such as bedroom and dining room sets, have been hit hard by COVID-19 and have closed, said Lehman. Upholstered furniture and textiles from India and Italy have also become difficult to obtain due to the closure of factories and factories by COVID-19. Adding to the furniture industry’s woes are winter storms in Texas and Louisiana, which shuttered two major factories that make chemicals used to make foam padding for sofas and chairs, Slate reported. The production still hasn’t caught up.
Then there are those congested west coast ports with container ships lined up for miles, and when they finally arrive, they can’t unload. There are not enough crane operators.
Trucking is also an issue. The American Trucking Associations estimates that there is currently a shortfall of about 80,000 drivers in the United States and fears that figure could double by 2030. (But, as LNP | LancasterOnline reported earlier this week, Lancaster has a concentration of truckers higher than in other parts of the country. Learn more at lanc.news/trucking22.)
The home goods industry is trying to cope with the national trucking shortage by using smaller trucks exempt from regulation, and some retailers may be trying to source goods that require the least trucking. Some US companies are starting factories just across the border in Mexico, and The New York Times has reported that business is booming for furniture factories in North Carolina, giving them a chance to recover. business once lost to globalization. But these factories are also being hit hard by labor shortages, which complicates their efforts.
“A problem resulting from all of this is price uncertainty,” notes Lehman. “Normally shipping costs from Asia are $1,500 to $2,000. Now they are $20,000. Shipping is virtually holding importers hostage.