What does the world of furniture look like in 2021? For many of us, this is an unanswered (and potentially unanswerable) question. From obscenely long shipping times to significant delays, ordering new furniture is more than stressful…it feels impossible!
But, as we all navigate business, consumer, and frankly life changes—it’s to be expected.
That doesn’t mean we have to go in clueless, though. To get the inside scoop, we’ve asked a few experts to weigh in on what they’ve noticed, what buyers can prepare for, and how we can all make the process—from order to delivery—as seamless as possible.
01 of 04
Expect Delays—Remember that Production is Global
“Gone are the days of artisan furniture makers who craft everything in-house,” says Mona Ying Reeves, Architect and Founder of Re:modern. “Most furniture, including custom furniture, relies on many parts and materials that are produced across the globe.”
What does this mean for the everyday consumer?
“Some suppliers may be the sole supplier for many brands,” Ying Reeves elaborates. “So when one production is delayed, let's say, on a specialized attachment piece, delays can occur because there is no substitute.”
In a time where production is challenged just as much as labor, having patience around both the creation and the ordering process is a must. Understand that just because you see something online doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily readily available or that it can be shipped within a reasonable time.
Patience is a virtue, yes, and it’s especially key right now.
02 of 04
Know That There’s HUGE Demand At the Moment
You want to order furniture… well, so does everyone else!
Lindsay Schleis, Vice President of Business Development and resident interior design expert for POLYWOOD, shares about the overwhelming demand furniture retailers have experienced during since 2020 (and are still experiencing currently!)
“Over the last 18 months, we've turned our homes into our offices,” Schleis says, “As a result, this is where we are spending a significant amount of our time. Our homes have become true extensions of every part of our lives. This shift in the way we live has inspired consumers to invest in all things home-related. From furnishings to decor, the demand for products for the home spiked while supply chain, labor, and the end products themselves have faced the largest challenge in decades.”
Although some companies, like POLYWOOD, are creating workarounds—curated collections of products that have quicker lead time or a “Quick-Ship Program” for select items—the core of the problem still remains. Right now, the demand is higher than the supply and the supply is, well, complicated.
03 of 04
Keep Labor Shortages In Mind
One of the biggest changes in the world of furniture is that there are labor shortages—everywhere.
And this isn’t just in the manufacturing stage; it’s also in the production and transport, too. Because of social distancing, quarantine, and shifts with work in general, all stages of the creation and shipping process have been impacted. Warehouses and regional trucking companies alike are having trouble hiring and retaining employees.
“The simple nature of keeping a socially distanced manufacturing line – whether it is in the USA where our furniture is made, or overseas – has caused factories to reduce labor and thus output,” Schleis says. “This applies not only to the end product but also to all of the components that go into manufacturing the end product. For example, the hardware used to assemble the furniture, or the fabric used to make the cushions may be unavailable or delayed, which in turn causes a delay in the final finished product.”
So, for furniture that’s ordered—it may actually be in pieces ready to be assembled, or even ready to go! But instead of being sent to you, it’s sitting in a truck or warehouse somewhere, just waiting for the finishing touches or to be packaged up and shipped.
04 of 04
Remember That Back-Stock Isn’t Always a Thing
Many of us are used to the Amazon Prime type of ordering: everything is ready in a single click and dropped off on our doorstep within two days max. Right?
Well, with furniture, of course, that isn’t the case.
While we’re accustomed to waiting a bit longer for our larger décor items, we don’t typically anticipate massive delays. And while this isn’t a huge deal if we’re upgrading or changing items in our homes, it can cause problems if we are, for example, moving and don’t have the furniture we need to live comfortably.
However, what’s important to keep in mind is that the items purchased online don’t necessarily live in warehouses. And because of the world of online marketing and sales, Ying Reeves says, “Furniture retailers have little incentive to keep their warehouses stocked. Especially with rapidly changing home trends, stores want to minimize inventory.”
Plus, considering how big and bulky most furniture pieces are, it would be silly to stock warehouses with items that may or may not sell quickly (if at all). So, just because something says “available” online doesn’t mean it’s actually ready.