When Jaheed Carr’s work went fully online last July and he was no longer restricted to living close to his office, he decided it was time to buy a new house. There was just one problem: The furniture he ordered took more than four months to be delivered.
“I paid for fast shipping,” said Carr, 29. “I didn’t get the notification that it shipped until September and it didn’t even arrive until the middle of November.”
This has become a common occurrence across the United States over the last 15 months. The demand for furniture and home repairs has been as high as ever in 2021, but shipping and production delays alongside a massive backlog and lack of resources slowly took its toll on the industry.
What would under normal circumstances take weeks for an outlet such as La-Z-Boy to complete an order had now become a process that in best case scenarios would take months to complete.
The four-month wait that Carr endured was actually on the shorter side of the spectrum. Many Americans have waited as long as five to nine months for their orders to arrive.
Houston resident William Hoyle has relatives in Cypress, Texas who ordered a couch from Gallery Furniture six months ago and it has yet to even reach the shipping stage of the process. He estimates they won’t receive it until the summer.
The delays began early in the pandemic, when lockdowns and remote work led to a surge in demand for furniture.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one-third of workers began to work from home during the pandemic. This resulted in potentially millions of workers requiring additional furniture or equipment in order to turn their homes into their temporary workspace.
As a result, the increase in new furniture orders was significant. A 20% increase in new orders was recorded in June 2020 compared to June 2019, according to the Furniture Insights reports by Smith Leonard PLLC.
Three of those orders belonged to New Yorker Jonathan Gil, who remodeled his bedroom to double as an office by purchasing a new desk, chair, and door. Gil’s employer covered around 30% of the cost of the furniture, which helped him.
According to the State of Remote Work report conducted by OWL Labs and Global Workplace Analytics, nearly 25% of companies paid for at least a portion of the cost relating to remote work, making it far easier for employees like Gil to work from home.
As orders rose, however, manufacturers and distributors had trouble keeping up. Many factories were unable to increase production due to worker shortages and lack of resources. Shipping services saw a similar trend.
Last June, shipments were down by 7% following a 31% decrease the month before. Backlogs took an even bigger hit. That same month, there was a 21% increase in backlogs from May. That trend continued as the total number of backlogs increased by 69% in July and a further 19% in August before jumping another 123% in September.
“Consumers continue to allocate more discretionary dollars to their homes in an environment with travel and other leisure related restrictions,” said La-Z-Boy President and Chief Executive Officer Kurt Darrow, during an earnings call earlier this year. “This continues to translate to a build in our record level backlog even as we add more capacity.”
It isn’t clear when the shortages will. In a letter to customers of furniture manufacturer Wesley Hall in TKMONTH, CEO Eddie Deal was optimistic about the outlook, expecting production to improve by the middle of April. But more than a month later, there have yet to be be any signs that production can meet the demand.
Michael Hurley, Research Associate for PBM Strategic Insights Team, said he expects furniture sales to grow by more than 3% by the end of the year. While this looks good from a sales standpoint, if there are even more orders placed but production fails to increase, the total number of backlogs will increase, causing shipping times to be even longer in the future.