Midway into 2020’s penultimate month, I don’t think I’m alone in being ready to say “so long” to what’s been an “interesting” year for the world and for our industry.
Around this time of year, I get to thinking about what’s transpired, and following are some musings on a tumultuous time.
First of all, it’s nice to see the furniture industry gain share of consumer headspace; too bad it took a pandemic for it to happen. While demand for many sectors faltered, a calamity actually increased consumers’ focus on improving the comfort and style of their home.
Temporary blip or long-term shift?
I’m not alone in seeking an answer to how long this increased interest in home furnishings will last. On one hand, demand at the levels we’ve seen has to ease off at some point. On the other, a renewed spike in coronavirus cases might have people still spending more time at home.
A trend toward relocation to less populated areas and its effect on existing home sales and new construction could help keep the ball rolling as well. My guess — and it’s just that, a guess — is that 2021 will shape up as a good year for our sector.
Supply chain of (and in) command
I’m hearing that most manufacturers and importers are betting on continued high demand for the coming year, with the former adding shifts, increasing hiring efforts and expanding with more production lines, while the latter is booking orders with offshore resources to get as much product on the water as possible before Chinese New Year.
Few anticipated the size of consumers’ appetites for home furnishings as stores reopened, and retailers can’t sell what they don’t have.
Spikes in costs for raw materials and transportation along with capacity constraints for both remain an ongoing challenge when it comes to getting goods to stores and into consumers’ homes. Which leads us to …
Consumer patience or lack thereof
Shoppers accustomed to seeing grocery stores empty of paper towels or toilet paper for weeks at times had some understanding of delays in getting big ticket items slower than usual, especially when retailers were up front about potential delays and maintained communication after taking the order.
How long that will last is open to question, and I’m seeing signs that a lot of consumers are getting restless with delays. For example, there’s a Facebook group set up to “advocate” for consumers dealing with a major company — you might guess who it is, but as it’s not alone in dealing with delays, communication issues, etc., I won’t name it here — that has close to 1,000 followers with more coming on each week. The group admins were “kind” enough to share my e-mail, so I’ve been hearing from a lot of angry folks lately that I can’t really help.
It might be worth a search to make sure your problems aren’t going viral, and if they are, jump on it quickly.