You’ve finally found the gorgeous sofa of your dreams, thanks to your favorite furniture retailer. Then get the bad news: shipping will take three to six months or even longer. Why is it taking so long to get new furniture delivered these days?
Like so many industries, the furniture business has been dramatically affected by global supply chain issues and labor shortages. The impact in the furniture sector is even more significant given Americans’ newfound passion for home improvement. Demand for new home goods is skyrocketing, and suppliers just can’t keep up.
What Are The Factors Behind Furniture Delivery Delays
The media has given extensive coverage to the fact that everyone is on a redecorating kick this year. Most of us are spending lots of time at home and want to make our interiors as beautiful and comfortable as possible. In many cases, this means new furniture. It’s a great time to redecorate, and consumer spending boosts local businesses, including independent home furnishings retailers. But high demand combined with supply chain issues and labor shortages makes the process complicated. In most cases, you’re going to wait a few months to get that perfect piece delivered. But with patience and flexibility, you can get the look you want. Let’s take a look at some of the factors involved–from a container ship stuck in the Suez Canal to a shortage of foam padding.
Believe it or not, some of the ongoing delays in furniture delivery are directly related to the ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal in March. Around 12 percent of global trade passes through that narrow canal. And when a container ship got stuck in the waterway for nearly a week, it delayed billions of dollars of goods each day. Container ships carry both manufactured goods (including lots of furniture) and parts needed to make products here in the US, so both retail and production have felt the impact. COVID-related shutdowns have also led to congested ports in the US, forcing shipping companies to wait to unload their cargo. Given that shipping companies were already having trouble keeping up with demand in the building and home furnishings sector, these additional roadblocks have made things even more challenging.
Unexpected Economic Factors
In the early days of the COVID pandemic, many experts predicted that quarantines and job losses would reduce demand. But in fact, the opposite has happened. Boosted by stimulus packages, consumers have had extra disposable income for small luxuries like home decor. In an article for House Beautiful, Kaitlin Petersen notes that many furniture brands scaled back production, anticipating lower demand in the early days of the pandemic. The surge in consumer demand caught manufacturers off guard, and furniture producers are still catching up.
Even as US factories in all sectors recover from COVID-related shutdown and absenteeism, many are still catching up. Furniture producers are having trouble finding employees, with skilled labor in especially short supply. And even when production facilities are up to speed and completing orders, getting those orders to retailers and consumers can also be challenging. In a 21st Century job market, trucking companies were short-staffed before COVID, and the pandemic has worsened the driver shortage. When furniture brands can’t get orders out the door, it compounds supply chain issues and creates lengthy delays.
Because of shipping and labor shortages, US producers are running into materials shortages in almost every area. And even the weather is playing a role when it comes to furniture. From fabric to foam to wood and metal, nearly every furniture component is in short supply.
- Fabric shortages: As Petersen points out, even furniture made in the US uses fabric sourced from India, Turkey and other countries in Asia. And much of the leather used in high-end furnishings comes from tanneries in Italy. Because of the global shipping backlog, US manufacturers can’t get the fabric they need to fill orders.
- Foam shortages: the dramatic and deadly deep freeze in Texas this winter also had unexpected repercussions for the furniture industry. It turns out that much of the foam material used as furniture filler and for cushions is made from petrochemicals produced along the US Gulf Coast. According to Petersen, many of our domestic foam production factories are located in the same region. So when the unexpectedly cold temperatures in February left much of the area without power, it sidelined several petrochemical producers and threw a major wrench in foam production. As manufacturers began to ration foam, it created further delays in furniture production and delivery.
- Wood shortages: the historic lumber shortages and record-high prices of 2021 have made headlines for months. Furniture makers are competing with building companies for precious raw materials. And while the shortage seems to be easing, it will take time for supply to catch up with demand.
- Metal shortages: According to Petersen, metal furniture parts like sleeper sofa components, swivel chair mechanisms, and drawer glides, primarily produced in Asia, are also in short supply because of shipping and logistical delays.
How Can I Avoid A Long Wait for New Furniture?
We know it’s frustrating. We’ve all been spending far more time at home, and we’re ready to redecorate right now. Many of us are incredibly excited to entertain friends and family indoors this holiday season. We want our interior spaces to be inviting and guest-ready. If you’re in a rush, here are a few strategies that can help you get new furniture faster:
- Ask about buying a floor sample.
- Be flexible with style and color. Talk with us about options you can get your hands on sooner.
- If you like your current furniture but need a fresh look, consider reupholstering–at least until supply chains open up.
- Plan ahead; if you’re thinking you might want new furniture next year, start yesterday.
If you have your heart set on a specific style and color, be ready to wait. Things are moving– they’re just moving slowly. We can all benefit from a little extra patience in this crazy year. You can get the pieces you want–you just need to readjust your timeline. And think about holiday upgrades now. Your independent furniture stores are doing their best to help clients choose the perfect pieces for their space. At The Guest Room Furniture & Design in Leesburg, we continue to focus on offering unique, high-quality, made in America home furnishings plus interior design services. Our commitment to customer service is unchanged. We share the frustration and appreciate your patience and flexibility.