Expert tips for staying ahead of furniture delays

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Everyone thought I was crazy for buying a couch that would go in an apartment I had yet to move into. I’d been hearing about furniture delays for two years so I thought it was best to order my couch in March for a June delivery. After purchasing I wondered, was I overpreparing? Did I need to order that far in advance? Yup, I certainly did.

The June 1 delivery date came and went several times, finally making its way to my home by mid-July. While going couchless was a minor problem, I was struck that even a good planner like myself couldn’t avoid the neverending furniture delays that have hit the market since 2020.

If you’re thinking about ordering new furniture anytime soon, you’ll need to be prepared. here are some expert tips to help you avoid furniture delays.

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So, what’s with all the furniture delays?

The current furniture backlog is a direct result of the demand raised during the pandemic.

Furniture delays began over two years ago according to Caitlin Smithe, designer and stylist at Walter E. Smithe Furniture and Design. “Demand for furniture rose at an unprecedented rate beginning in July of 2020 as consumers realized that COVID wasn’t going away anytime soon.”

During the pandemic, when people were spending time more time than usual at home, many grew weary of their old sectional sofas and coffee tables, using the extra time at home as an opportunity to redecorate. Unfortunately, this coincided with a dwindling supply.

When COVID hit, many factories had to close due to safety restrictions. With each COVID surge experienced in countries across the world, especially Vietnam, a hub of furniture production, factories had to limit their production time and time again. This created a backlog of furniture delays that is still being worked through.

It’s been difficult to catch up as Smithe says often these factories are working with skeleton crews as labor has been increasingly difficult to find. Additionally comes the problem of sourcing materials.

For example, Texas is one of the largest producers of foam, which is essential for stuffing many sofas and armchairs. The ice storms of 2021 devastated the state causing widespread loss of power delaying production of foam factories. While foam production is back to its normal speed, it was just another obstacle that added to the furniture industry backlogs.

Additionally, shipping furniture from an international manufacturer to the U.S. also contributed to the slow down. Smithe says that there was a significant bottleneck on shipping containers the past two years, only further condensing the backlog. She says that while shipping is flowing at pre-pandemic rates, however, costs have exponentially increased.

In 2022, demand is down for furniture, giving all of the back-ups a chance to catch up, but the impact of the past two years is still slowing down the whole industry. Now rather than waiting over six months for furniture, waits are only three to four months.

So what’s to be done if you’re anticipating these delays? A little planning and knowing what to look for when shopping is key.

When ordering for the date you need, plan accordingly and add several weeks

With the holidays just around the corner, you may be thinking of getting a bigger dining table or a new bed for the guest room. If there’s a date on your calendar you know your guests are arriving, make sure to order ahead as much as you can.

When you’re shopping for furniture, many retailers offer estimated shipping dates. But we still recommend anticipating a delay in those projections to avoid any potential hang ups with your furniture delivery.

Add a couple of weeks to whatever time the company expects your items to arrive. Otherwise, your holiday guests may arrive before their bed does.

When you do purchase online, you’re leaving a lot up to chance since you won’t have confirmation from a sales team. Also, things can get pushed back with very little notice so when ordering online you’ll want to keep an eye on your email to be notified of delays.

To minimize delays when shopping online, look for furniture that is currently in stock. These items should likely ship right away without delay.

If possible, visit the store in person

While we do live in the digital age of consumerism, speaking to a real representative in-store might be more effective for your delivery.

When it comes to buying furniture, talking to a sales associate can be more helpful than seeking out the information on a website.

Smithe recommends going to a store that carries multiple brands of furniture. “Most furniture stores that operate this way are staffed with skilled designers or salespeople who can direct you to lines that have shorter lead times.”

Speaking with a salesperson can help inform you of the wait times and provide their expertise on the best time to order pieces for when you need them.

Particular expertise that a designer or sales associate can inform you of is the delays on certain materials. For example, a couch you may love might be in stock in one color, but a different fabric may have a long wait time.

Once again, starting your shopping well in advance will help you get the items you need. Three months ahead of when you absolutely need an item is a good time frame shopping for what you need because Smithe says it will help you get just the right piece.

“If you come across the ‘perfect’ piece of furniture that you just need to have but has a long lead time, my best advice is to get in line,” says Smithe.

Another perk of shopping in person is that in some cases you can take home items the day of.

Ask your furniture store if they have items that can be taken home the day of. Popular brands such as Pottery Barn and West Elm have outlet stores where you can get top-quality items at a discount. While you may have to haul these pieces home yourself, you’ll save yourself the stress of waiting around for your pieces to come.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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