Returning to Reality: Normalising the Furniture Industry Supply Chain
October 27, 2023
Furniture Industry Struggles Amidst Pandemic Closures
While it may seem like a distant memory now, we all remember when the US Government announced a two-week closure of all “non-essential” businesses to try and halt the spread of a global pandemic in March of 2020. Organisations nationwide were in shock, and many home furnishings retailers were restricted from opening while mixed-product retailers that sold appliances were deemed essential. A bit of a crisis was setting in for an industry that relies heavily on in-person sales and relationships. How would the furniture industry stay afloat?
Initially, this shutdown saw some factories raise prices while others lowered prices to stay in business, and retailers reached a standstill while the long-term effects were still yet to be understood. From virtual learning and working remotely to cancelled vacations and get-togethers, everyone was now spending more time at home. However, there was light at the end of the tunnel.
Demand Soars as Stores Reopen
As the weeks passed and the threat lessened, retail stores reopened, and sales in the home furnishings sector skyrocketed! Consumers realised that they would be spending significantly more time at home, so they wanted to create more functional living and working spaces. This meant purchasing furniture for home offices or possibly upgrading existing pieces in living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms.
What resulted was a massive need for products and a supply chain that went from average (before March 2020) to not functioning (March – April 2020) to unprecedented demand (May 2020 – March 2022). Factories resumed work amidst newly distanced production lines and attempted to manufacture in unknown conditions to meet this surge in demand.
Graphic: Furniture industry EDI Transactions through Covid-19 supply chain woes
Combatting Delays, Confusion & Scarcity
The period of time between May 2020 and November 2022 displays the challenge of backlogs caused by the pandemic, showing a drastic increase in Purchase Order (PO) Acknowledgements. Many retailers saw their orders being pushed back for weeks or even months at a time. The stress on the furniture industry was felt throughout the entire supply chain, with retailers taking on the brunt of these delays.
The furniture industry is known for having multiple PO Acknowledgements per PO, with an average PO receiving four different acknowledgements. However, this increased to around twenty acknowledgements per PO during this time, causing unprecedented delays and confusion. Because of the “big and bulky” nature of furniture products, shipping times can change frequently throughout the life of the PO to Fulfilment.
Along with these delays, the scarcity of raw materials resulted in a lack of finished goods to meet the new demand expectations. Home goods manufacturers were scrambling to procure materials and recognised a need for enhanced visibility throughout their supply chain processes.
Adjusting to the “New Normal” with TrueCommerce Home
Furniture retailers are looking for ways to improve their supply chain operations and adapt to new market trends. To succeed in today’s competitive market, retailers and manufacturers need unified commerce solutions that increase visibility, accelerate delivery times, and drive efficiency.
Additionally, data holds immense significance not only on the supply side and B2B operations but also as it relates to online selling, where omnichannel processes are gaining importance. Retailers now face the challenge of managing processes in an increasingly virtual environment.
Leading furniture retailers are investing in technology that provides them with clean, rapid, and precise data. They understand the changing consumer buying patterns, and rather than being swept away, they aim to ride the wave of transformation. As consumer behaviours continue to shift, adapting to these changes is the only way forward. The good news is that TrueCommerce Home offers technology solutions that can help retailers regain control of their supply chain and scale their businesses. From EDI, which allows the seamless exchange of important documents and transaction data, to drop shipping, allowing retailers to expand their product offerings without the added cost of warehouse, TrueCommerce Home provides the integration and automation necessary to meet the demands of the new supply chain reality. For more information, contact us to book a free demo and see how you can optimise your home furnishings supply chain today.
About the Author
Seth Weisblatt has over 20 years of experience in the home furnishings industry. He is currently the Director of TrueCommerce Home at TrueCommerce, where he oversees the home vertical within TrueCommerce platforms and provides digital integration solutions to key suppliers. With a passion for the furniture industry, he owned and operated a successful retail store in Fort Worth, Texas, transforming and modernising the “mom-and-pop” retailer into a regional powerhouse. Seth also led the home furnishing division for a national buying group, consulting with hundreds of furniture brands and retailers. Additionally, he served as the VP of Digital Marketing for the world’s largest furniture manufacturer, Ashley Furniture.
Seth resides in Plano, Texas, with his supportive wife, two high-energy dogs, and four incredible children. When he’s not telling dad jokes or driving the oversized dad-bus (SUV), Seth is likely in the kitchen putting together an over-the-top meal or on the road, enjoying the chance to create new memories and chasing sunsets.
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