Why is my furniture taking so long to arrive?
Wondering why the new sofa you’ve been dreaming about may not be in your living room until 2022? Lead time for furnishings is longer than ever before and the reasons behind the long wait are a perfect storm of conditions that have culminated to this point. Keep reading to learn more about the crazy furniture world we’re living in and just as importantly, how our interior design team at Che Bella can help navigate the process.
1. You start at the back of the line. If you are ordering furniture that has options i.e. wood finish, fabric, arm style etc., you have ordered a “made-to-order” piece of furniture. It takes manufacturers 9 to 14 days to make a sofa. Aside from the production phase, there are several other steps in the process to take you from ordering to delivery of your piece.
2. The production of fabric has been disrupted. The main centers for textile production are Belgium, India, Turkey, and many countries throughout Asia. The textile production in these countries was shut down for months while their communities battled COVID-19. Manufacturers do keep some fabric in stock, but production delays at the mills and extra-long shipping times can hold up pieces for weeks. In addition, the early pandemic stock market dip caused retailers to assume demand would be down as they thought consumers would be losing jobs and scaling back on spending. The opposite happened and now they are short on supply and facing a surge in demand.
3. Wood and metal parts can be in short supply. Furniture makers are competing with builders for lumber. Furniture manufacturers use specific kiln-dried hardwoods to frame their pieces. This means there are not many options for sourcing wood. Any metal parts are likely produced in Asia, where there is a shortage of container ships caused by Americans’ online shopping during the pandemic.
4. There is a shortage of skilled labor. As the pandemic worked its way across the U.S. in the spring of 2020, furniture factories stopped production for almost two months. Orders back up, and factories had to implement safety procedures which slowed down production. Worker absenteeism was at an all-time high due to illness, mandatory quarantines, or lack of childcare during distant learning. Now that things are returning to normal, staffing the factories to supercharge production is nearly impossible because some of the skills and techniques used can take years for new employees to learn from more senior craftspeople.
5. Suppliers are rationing foam. A single sofa may require multiple types of foam, all from different suppliers. If one type of foam is missing, that can throw off the entire production lead time. When demand for furniture skyrocketed last year, vendors were not able to replenish their supply of chemicals needed to create cushion foam fast enough and they started rationing. In February, the ice storm that hit the Gulf Coast – where three-quarters of the major chemical plants for foam suppliers are located, caused these plants to close temporarily, further diminishing supplies. As furniture demand was increasing, the components to produce these products were in desperately short supply, the effects of which we are still feeling today.
Where does this leave us now?
Even after a piece is finished, there may be delays in delivery to the customer. Pre-COVID, the trucking industry was already experiencing labor shortages, which the pandemic has only made worse. Pieces ready and loaded in trucks are waiting for weeks for a driver to become available. The silver lining to all of us? Manufacturers believe that these challenges will make the industry faster down the line, due to operational improvements. And ultimately, a quality piece will be worth the wait as a quality manufacturer won’t consider achieving a shorter lead time by cutting corners.
How Che Bella Interiors in Minneapolis Can Help You Navigate a Custom Furniture Order
While our team can’t solve the larger logistical issues facing the custom furniture & furnishings market in Minneapolis & beyond, we can help you navigate the complexities of selecting and purchasing furnishings and accessories. Our dedicated team of Minneapolis interior designers and general contractors lives and breaths the industry meaning we stay up to date on the latest timelines from manufacturers across the world. In turn, we ensure our clients stay informed about scheduling and any alternatives that may be available.
Let the expert staff at Che Bella help lead you through the process from start to finish, focusing on every detail with the highest level of personalized service, to deliver a space that is beautifully yours. Contact us today to discuss your project from conception to completion.