Are you in the market for a cozy new sofa or chair? Great, but if it’s not currently in stock, you may want to plan on it taking longer than expected. I discovered this when I ordered a new sofa this summer. The fabric was in stock, and the salesperson assured me the order would arrive by late fall. Now it’s looking more like January 2022. Why the long wait?
Turns out the delay is caused by a global supply shortage that’s creating bottlenecks across many industries—not only in upholstered furniture, but also boats, automobiles, RVs and much more. Furniture industry suppliers and manufacturers have been scrambling to meet the increased customer demand that started during the COVID-19 pandemic, when homebound consumers turned their focus to improving their interiors. Then, producers ramped up to 120% capacity to deal with the exploding demand.
According to a recent article in USA Today, the resulting backlog has affected the entire supply chain in this industry—all the way down to the furniture retailers, who generally maintain lean inventories and minimal surpluses. The stores are trying their best to keep up with demand, caught in between the struggling producers and frustrated customers.
The media is full of stories of irate consumers venting their rage on the hard-working folks at the front lines. The airlines are a good example. A July 24 Bloomberg article reported that, in 2021 alone, the Federal Aviation Administration has logged more than 3,500 reports of unruly passengers on flights, far exceeding anything in the past. Nearly 600 of those cases were serious enough to prompt a formal investigation.
And then there is the hard-hit restaurant industry, struggling to survive in the wake of COVID-19 and the resulting shortage of employees and supplies. According to The New York Times, a Cape Cod, Massachusetts, restaurant recently shut down to give their abused employees a “day of kindness” break. Regina Felt Castellano, owner of the Apt Cape Cod restaurant, has seen “an astronomical influx” of patrons who have argued with, yelled at, sworn at and even threatened to sue her waitstaff, reducing some to tears. “This is an unacceptable way to treat any human,” she wrote on Facebook.
Perhaps we all need to practice some Zen while industries recalibrate and adjust to the “new normal” of our post- (and maybe not so post-) pandemic world. It’s worth noting that mattress and furniture manufacturers emerged as early heroes during COVID-19, mobilizing their manufacturing resources to produce much-needed beds for hospitals and surgical masks for health professionals. My April 2020 blog post recognized just a few of the CertiPUR-US® participating companies that dedicated their resources to help meet some of the pandemic’s medical supply challenges. They certainly don’t deserve to bear the brunt of consumer frustration.
As a furniture company recently noted in one of its advertisements, “We all love a bit of instant gratification [and] sometimes you just want to get your hands (or your butts) on a new piece of furniture fast.” Of course we do. Just remember that this year presents a variety of challenges. So, if you are dreaming of a new sofa or chair in your living room by winter, don’t wait to buy it—and be sure to ask the salesperson about the delivery date so you don’t harbor unrealistic expectations. If the news isn’t quite what you were hoping for, remember that your salesperson probably could use a “day of kindness.”