For months now, across the country, outdoor furniture order delays have been running between 14 to 20 weeks. Now, these delays are extending even longer as early buy orders for next spring are thrown into the mix. Expected delivery dates are getting pushed and pushed again. Casual furniture manufactures interviewed by the Associated Press say they expect the supply squeeze to last until 2022 or even 2023. This is causing frustration among both retailers and consumers to rise.
However, these supply chain issues are being caused by a unique situation that’s out of everyone’s control. Politics, foreign relations, natural disasters, world events (especially COVID-19) all factor into it. As if a global pandemic isn’t enough to throw a few wrenches into the outdoor furniture industry, the snowstorm that hit Texas in February and an explosion at the Yenkin-Majestic Paints and OPC Polymers Corp. plant in Ohio this April further devastated the supply chain.
Shortages in not only raw materials but also workers, truckers, and even shipping containers have led to low inventory and high prices on what is available. Many companies across industries are struggling to hire and keep good employees. This might be partially due to greater unemployment benefits. Although, there also seems to be a movement of essential workers realizing their value and insisting on better pay and treatment before returning to the workforce. Not only is it difficult to find people to transport goods, but on top of that full shipping containers that are meant to be on their way to the United States are stuck in Asian ports.
Despite the long waits, some consumers are still ordering outdoor furniture through their favorite retailers. The demand for these items is so high that despite the issues, the industry is still chugging along. Open Air’s very own Judy Evans Sleeper has been working through these issues herself and suggests that retailers keep their showrooms looking as lively as possible, even though some days it’s tempting to sell every item.
“There have been different philosophies regarding furniture on the showroom floors. Some retailers, like the one I am working with, have chosen to keep their showrooms full, selling certain items but keeping others so customers can try them out and then place orders,” Judy said. “Also, an empty showroom makes it look like you are going out of business. Buyers may not come back if there is nothing to see!”
Overall, the economy is growing faster than it has for generations at more than six percent. People can afford goods like outdoor furniture, even when accounting for the rising prices. Plus, the option to shop online makes the process easier than ever in some ways. The convenience factor is certainly impacting the demand for consumer goods, but the appeal is fading as the time between ordering something and its arrival is growing. Most of us have gotten very used to near-instant delivery. Even when the economy was down during the Great Recession, we were still able to rush order our Amazon packages.
Although it can be frustrating to acquire currently, outdoor furniture is still in demand because, not in spite, of recent events. It only makes sense that these goods became an especially hot commodity during a time when socializing only felt safe to do outside. Consumers spent a lot of time and money in 2020 doing home renovations, starting with outdoor spaces where they could host small groups of friends and family. On top of that, the restaurant and hospitality industries were competing directly with consumers for a lot of these items because they needed to provide attractive and COVID compliant outdoor spaces just to stay in business.
Every time the self-isolation guidelines ease up, there is a boom in demand for outdoor furniture because these goods will allow people to go out to dinner, hit up a bar, throw a pool party, or host a cookout; simple joys that many are desperate to experience after spending months inside and alone. However, the rate that the world and the economy opened at was simply too fast for factories and shipping companies to keep up with. Because of this, it will be important for the economy to stay strong long enough for these businesses to catch up and shorten the wait times.
Regarding shopping for outdoor furniture, the best advice we can give you right now is to come to terms with the fact that you may have to wait an indefinite amount of time to receive the pieces you really want. Quality outdoor furniture is made to last many, many years and is therefore a true investment. In the interim, it’s best to try and make do with what you have instead of spending money on new pieces that you don’t truly love. The supply chain will be corrected in time, but for now we practice patience.