What to Do When Your Furniture Is on Back-Order

How to Deal With Shipping Delays on Essential Home Items

Woman unpacking a new piece of furniture
Kathrin Ziegler / Getty Images

As anyone who has spent two weeks (or longer!) without a sofa thanks to untimely shipping delays will tell you, it can be incredibly frustrating (to say the least) when you find yourself home without a key furniture piece. While supply chain issues and shipping delays continue worldwide, we turned to Cameron Johnson, founder and CEO of furniture-leasing company Nickson, to discuss tips and tricks for coping and making do when our furniture orders are delayed or back-ordered.

Meet the Expert

Cameron Johnson is the founder and CEO of Nickson, a furniture leasing service.

Why the Delays?

As Johnson puts it, “Stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions created a proverbial ‘perfect storm’ for the furniture industry." Because we've all been spending more time at home than ever before, it's only natural that we would collectively look to improve our spaces and refresh our furniture pieces. (Who doesn't love a good bookshelf makeover?) But, Johnson notes, "given that a majority of furniture is manufactured overseas, the increased demand [required] more international shipping of goods to be fulfilled."

Issues ranging from increased demand and raw material shortages to slow shipping speeds and limited freight capacity have caused delays and back-orders of furniture and other home goods, Johnson says. But don't worry! There are ways to weather this perfect shipping storm.

First, Don’t Panic.

Depending on what you’re waiting to have delivered, Johnson points out that some furniture items are easy to wait for. “Non-essential items are the easiest to live without, such as nightstands, side tables, bookcases, as well as other items that do not facilitate critical activities like eating, sleeping, and working," he says.

Sort out a Temporary Backup Plan

If you are waiting on an essential item, then you’re going to need an alternative solution to get you through to your long-awaited piece’s arrival, especially if you've already gotten rid of your old piece of furniture. Essential items include your “bed, dining furniture, and [any] other items that facilitate critical living activities like eating, sleeping, and working,” Johnson says.

One suggestion is to look into a furniture rental service like his own company, Nickson, which provides what Johnson calls furnishing-as-a-service. With Nickson and similar services, you can digitally subscribe and get all the furnishings, decor, and other home goods you need for a flat monthly fee.

Alternately, Johnson suggests another cost-effective solution: “Air mattresses [and] temporary dining setups can be found in your favorite store’s camping section.”

Plan Ahead

If you want to avoid being left without a must-have item entirely, then Johnson says the only real option is to plan ahead and shop with these current delays and restrictions in mind.

“The best way to avoid being in a situation where your items are back-ordered is to shop ahead, select items that are in stock whenever possible, and avoid purchasing items with an undetermined or non-published delivery date,” he says. 

Be Flexible

Unfortunately, planning ahead isn’t always feasible. If you are faced with a shipping delay that’s going to leave you without a necessary and essential furniture piece, take a deep breath.

“The current climate requires consumers to be flexible and to make a tradeoff between their ability to select the ‘perfect’ item and their ability to simply have said item,” Johnson says.

Your dream sofa might come with a 12-week delivery wait—while the same sofa in a different fabric, pattern, or color might be available within days. Decide which trade-offs you're willing to make.

Go Vintage

If you really don’t want to wait any longer for your replacement pieces, then don’t! “We know several consumers who have taken to purchasing vintage items and restoring or altering them to add readily available, unique pieces to their homes,” Johnson says. “Many people find hunting for items in estate sales, warehouse events, and otherwise exciting, and the process and reward of finishing the items to be therapeutic.”

Best of all, buying pieces secondhand or renting them through a service can be better for your wallet, your sanity, and the planet.