Furniture retailers face ‘unprecedented’ delays but business is booming, Corridor stores say

Across the country, furniture retailers are reporting months of delays in every step of the supply chain – from overcrowded factories to congested ports – amid rising demand for desks, chairs and couches during a pandemic that left millions of families mostly home for almost a year.

“It’s a uniquely busy and challenging time in the home industry, even here in our area,” agreed Emily Hughes, owner and chief interior designer at Mix Home Mercantile in North Liberty.

“We have delays in delivering items for both our shop and special orders from our customers,” she said.

“There are challenges at every level and it is frustrating to act as a middleman to deliver bad or disappointing news for our customers.”

She said that many of her typical “in stock” items from her suppliers now take four to six weeks to get to Mix Home Mercantile due to a shortage, instead of the usual two to three weeks travel time from and recent truck regulations changes. Driver.

Russell Carmody, branch manager of Phelan’s Interiors at Cedar Rapids, said they were facing similar challenges. What could normally be a delivery window of four to six weeks or eight to ten weeks is now extended to delays of 16 to 20 weeks.

“We just reviewed an order we placed in November and were informed that it would be pushed back until May,” said Carmody.

“We needed to communicate as honestly and as often as possible with our customers waiting for their special orders,” added Hughes.

“Most understand and are aware of the many problems caused by the insane events of the past year.”

“You have two problems – high demand and a disrupted supply chain,” said Greg Portell, a partner in the consumer and retail practice at consulting firm AT Kearney in Chicago.

“All the places where this stuff is made, whether internationally or domestically, have been disrupted by Covid and are under enormous strain.”

La Z-Boy customers, for example, are now waiting for their orders for an unprecedented five to nine months, managing director Kurt Darrow said in a earnings call last month, adding that production disruptions and shipping delays totaled a $ 30 million loss in the business last quarter.

Another reason behind the backlog is a shortage or reduction in manpower at suppliers due to COVID-19 security changes for factory work, some of which have half their typical workforce.

In part, however, this is due to material shortages, some of which are overseas and others have been affected by the recent weather problems in Texas.

“A large part of the delay, especially with upholstery work, is the recent ice storms in Texas,” said Carmody, noting that two major manufacturers there were affected and large portions of the composite foam material were damaged.

“So it’s not just a pandemic, our utilities have been completely shut down,” he said.

At the same time, the furniture business is booming – driven by big leaps in work-from-home agreements and home sales – making it an unexpected ray of hope in the otherwise ailing retail sector.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Americans spent an estimated $ 11.3 billion in furniture and home decor stores last month, up 12 percent year over year.

Monthly sales in the industry are up 181 percent since April, while retail sales are up 34 percent overall.

Local retailers are seeing a small increase in buyers looking for new pieces of furniture.

Hughes said they had seen a surge in business due to both COVID and the derecho.

“Spending more time at home with COVID has changed people’s spending habits and priorities,” she said.

“Since they were unable to vacation and travel, they wanted to improve their daily environment. We have had a lot of clients who wanted to update or remodel their interiors to better match their homes with their style and make their spaces more functional, stylish and up-to-date. “

Many furniture stores say pandemic sales followed an unpredictable but clear pattern. Revenue fell sharply in March and April last year when much of the land was under lockdown.

But in May, when Americans realized they would be stuck at home for the long term, they grabbed desks and patio furniture, then upholstered chairs, sofas, dining tables, and just about everything else – and demand has remained high since then.

“Our sales aren’t going up, but we’re definitely doing fine no matter what,” said Carmody.

Better options

Unsurprisingly, these local retailers have gotten creative to tackle the challenges.

“We have tried to stock more items that we can sell off the floor and replace quickly so our customers who don’t want to wait six months for custom-made furniture have better storage options,” said Hughes.

She noted that she had also brought in additional custom-made furniture suppliers to help meet customer-requested prices and lead times.

“We’re offering some group pricing because we know some customers are looking for more than one piece for their home,” said Carmody.

“We also have pieces that can be bought straight off the floor, or what we call one to show and one to take away. And we’re also focusing on adding more ‘Fast Shipping’ items to our inventory. “

He noted that “fast ship” usually means four weeks and currently expires about eight weeks.

Despite the shipping challenges, local retailers are grateful for the way local buyers continue to support them.

“I think COVID really made people rethink their priorities in terms of helping their local businesses,” said Hughes.

“I think a lot of locals have bought more locally over the past year to keep the shops and restaurants they love during these challenging times.

“I think it’s nice that even though we have had to be isolated for health reasons, we have still found ways to reach out and support each other, both financially and with a new level of patience, tolerance and compassion that we possibly can have not had before COVID. “

The Washington Post contributed to this report.

Tyree Cooper’s warehouse manager and lasting impressions director assembles a stress-free Mayfair lounge chair at Phelan’s Inc., 728 Third Avenue SE, in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Thursday, March 11, 2021. (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)

Tyree Cooper’s warehouse manager and lasting impressions director will assemble a hassle-free Mayfair lounge chair at Phelan’s Inc., 728 Third Avenue SE, in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Thursday, March 11, 2021. (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)

Tyree Cooper’s warehouse manager and lasting impressions director will assemble a hassle-free Mayfair lounge chair at Phelan’s Inc., 728 Third Avenue SE, in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Thursday, March 11, 2021. (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)

Stress relief loungers are lined up at Phelan’s Inc., 728 Third Avenue SE, in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Thursday, March 11, 2021. (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)

A stress-free lounger exhibit at Phelan’s Inc., 728 Third Avenue SE, in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Thursday, March 11, 2021. (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)

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