Why Is Furniture Taking so Long to Be Delivered?
A look at how COVID, weather, and unusually high demand have caused a furniture shortage.
If you have been asking this question, you are not alone.
Manufacturing slow-downs, labor shortages in the trucking industry, and a whole host of other problems have created a furniture shortage and major delivery issues.
How did this happen?
Underestimated Demand = Furniture Shortage
Remember back in the spring of 2020 when a little thing called COVID-19 came calling? And the world as we knew it came to a screeching halt?
As with many industries, furniture stores and manufacturers began to make decisions based on what they thought was coming. Since a significant dip in the economy was expected, furniture stores canceled orders.
Then labor shortages due to social distancing and illness from the virus caused manufacturers to slow production almost to a halt.
But then a funny thing happened.
People started looking at their surroundings as we all spent more time at home—working from home, eating all of our meals at home, canceling social gatherings and vacations. The more they looked, the more they realized their homes needed an upgrade.
I mean, nobody was spending money on gas to get to work, or dining out, or vacations, so you may as well make improvements to your home, right?
So as soon as we were able, people headed to the home improvement stores and furniture stores in droves, ready to upgrade their homes.
But here’s the problem.
Typically, a furniture store will have a warehouse full of furniture that is ordered months in advance. Then when a shopper makes a purchase, they pull the product off the warehouse shelf to be delivered.
Stores were carrying less inventory. Manufacturers were not producing as much. Few were prepared for the demand when the stay-at-home orders were lifted, causing a major furniture shortage.
Furniture giants like Ashley, West Elm, and Crate and Barrel are all struggling to fill orders. Many customers report waiting 6-8 months for items to be delivered.
Luckily for customers struggling with this nearly year-long delay, there is a solution to furnishing your home now, even while waiting for your forever furniture to arrive! Rental furniture companies offer this solution. They naturally maintain inventory in their warehouses to supply temporary furniture rental for people in transition.
Brent Dorrah, Vice President at Furniture Options, a leading furniture rental provider in the central US for the last 35 years, says they are in a unique position of having a good supply of inventory to service the demand during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have done a good job of managing our inventory levels. We also had some large pre-pandemic orders we received early in the pandemic to honor our relationships with current vendors,” said Dorrah.
Rental furniture companies are perfect for bridging the gap between order and delivery when delays put a stop to your home furnishing plans. But what’s causing these delays in the first place? Well, there are many reasons why your typical one-week delivery has been extended to several months.
Weather Delays Cause Raw Materials Shortage
To add insult to injury, extreme weather conditions in Texas and Louisiana over the winter caused a delay in foam production—an ever-important component in sofas, chairs, and mattresses, causing the furniture industry to take another hit.
The chemicals used to make foam are mainly produced in the Gulf of Mexico region. When the ice storms and power outages hit the area, plants were closed for days and were slow to recover.1
Since raw materials were scarce, foam producers could not produce enough to keep up with the demand. In turn, furniture manufacturers also had to slow production as they waited for materials to arrive, creating further furniture delays.
Chris Bradley, Executive VP at NCFI, one of the major foam producers, doesn’t expect production levels to return to normal until late summer 2021. He said that consumer demand was already above what the foam manufacturers could keep up with even before weather delays. “Until we get several months in a row of full production of chemicals, we’ll be playing catch-up.”2
Transportation Bottlenecks Cause Delivery Issues
When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, the entire world stopped.
Retailers put orders on hold, which put a hold on shipments coming in from Asia.
As we started seeing signs of life once again, retail came back in a big way. The shipments from Asia were pouring into California ports, and the transportation industry couldn’t keep up.
The trucking industry has been seeing fewer and fewer drivers entering the industry for years. Now, with a global pandemic on our hands, that labor force was even further reduced as drivers chose not to go back out on the road.
Those still driving are heading to California, where they know they can earn more money for the loads they pick up, leaving even fewer drivers available for domestic shipments.3
Dorrah says, “the driver shortage is significantly affecting the furniture industry. Freight costs continue to rise, and lead times to receive products are growing longer.”
With fewer drivers available, many importers are looking to the railroad to get their products from the ports. Using the rail system was working well, but in February 2021, delivery issues were compounded.
Severe weather impacted many of the US rail terminals. In New York/New Jersey, the port terminal was closed for five days adding to the already backlogged freight.4
According to Michael Faus, Senior Vice President at Carpenter, another foam manufacturer, rail has always been the best way to get the chemicals needed for their product to the plant. “We can manage tanker trucks a little easier, but they don’t have the capacity of rail cars.”
And while trucks may typically be easier to manage, Faus went on to say, “We’re continually getting deliveries moved back because we can’t get a truck.”5
What Does This Mean For Furniture Buyers?
The biggest problem shoppers have confronted regarding furniture delays is that they weren’t aware of the situation in the first place.
They didn’t realize that, like them, a myriad of others also discovered their couch needed to be replaced after spending countless hours there during the pandemic. Or that less furniture had been built during those dark days of 2020, creating a furniture shortage.
Unfortunately, with so much uncertainty, not all retailers have communicated the delivery issues effectively. Knowing this could be a problem ahead of time will help you plan accordingly.
If the furniture you choose is back-ordered, just know that it could be months before delivery. If you’re replacing a current piece, that means hanging on to the old one a little longer than you anticipated.
If you’re able to find something you like in stock, that’s another good way to go.
But don’t settle just because you need furniture right away. There’s one more option you need to consider.
If you need something new and are unable (or unwilling) to hold on to the outgoing version until you get the new one, consider renting furniture to bridge the gap.
Furniture Options is well-stocked with high-quality furniture. Sofas, beds, dressers, and many other pieces of furniture and accessories can be delivered to your home – usually within one day. You can still be comfortable until that perfect item can be delivered.
You don’t have to settle, and you don’t have to live with that old furniture (or no furniture at all as the case may be) any longer. Furniture delays will probably continue into the fall of 2021, but rest easy knowing that Furniture Options has a solution to keep you comfortable while you wait.