6 months and $800 later, still waiting for a chair: How supply chain issues affect furniture orders

"Wait times vary by demand and item, but plan for up to 10 weeks or more."

Illustration by Euralis Weekes

Rachel F. Elson, a wealth advisor in San Francisco, had been searching for the perfect arm chair when the pandemic hit. Elson was opposed to buying something she hadn't tested out in person, so ordering one during quarantine wasn't really an option, she says: "I wasn't going to get anything without sitting in it first."

After she and her partner got vaccinated in May, they visited Scandinavian Designs and ordered the $800 Raholt Rope Lounge Chair. Including shipping, "the whole thing was less than $900, I think," Elson says. "At this point, I don't even remember."

Since placing the order, she's received multiple emails informing her that the date of delivery has been pushed back: "I got an email in July saying it was going to be delayed until end of August. Then I got an email in September saying it was delayed until mid-November. Then I got an email on [November] 11 saying it's here" in the warehouse.

On November 18, one day before the promised delivery date, Elson received another disappointing update: "After multiple calls arranging my delivery, Scandinavian Designs now says they 'can't find the chair in the warehouse,'" she says. "As of right now, I am chairless."

Scandinavian Designs did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The brand's site notes that "Due to Covid-19, products may be sold out online or take longer to arrive, resulting in unexpected delays."

Elson is one of many shoppers waiting on furniture. Pain points in the supply chain have made it so all retailers are experiencing delays receiving and shipping products, says Jamie Katz, an analyst at Morningstar. "I suspect most consumers will see an elongated delivery date," she says.

A 'culmination of logjams' in the furniture supply chain

Supply chain delays are plaguing many product categories: books, groceries, seasonal goods like Christmas trees and decorations. The restraints affecting furniture are not unlike the ones affecting everything else, Katz says.

Furniture sales were up over 22% in September 2021 compared to September 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, the overseas factories that make a lot of the furniture are not producing at pre-pandemic levels, Katz says. Shipping containers are hard to come by, as well, and fit fewer pieces of furniture than they would toys or small home goods.

Once the furniture is shipped to the U.S., it might sit at the port for longer than usual because there aren't as many workers loading and unloading cargo containers.

I suspect most consumers will see an elongated delivery date.
Jamie Katz
analyst at Morningstar

These problems are compounded by a lack of truck drivers able to move products to retailers. This means that even furniture that is made in the United States will encounter supply chain delays.

"The culmination of all of those logjams has really exacerbated the lack of throughput across multiple industries," Katz says.

These problems are affecting all major retailers, she points out. "For the retailers, it's not idiosyncratic to any single company," Katz says. "Pretty much across the board, we are seeing the same sort of constraints based on all the operators in the space."

'Don't count on furniture arriving before the year is done'

If you're looking to furniture shop this year, the earlier you order the better, Katz says.

"For consumers that are waiting to purchase things until after the holiday season because they think the supply chain may be better, they may be looking at even longer delivery times rather than speedier delivery times," she says. "It might be better to order things earlier rather than later to get in line if there's something you really want."

Pretty much across the board, we are seeing the same sort of constraints based on all the operators in the space.
Jamie Katz
analyst at Morningstar

This doesn't mean your furniture will be delivered before the holidays if you order now, say Kristin McGrath, shopping expert at RetailMeNot. "Wait times vary by demand and item, but plan for up to 10 weeks or more," she says. "Don't count on furniture arriving before the year is done."

Most big-ticket items have been delayed "for weeks the entire year," she says, "and that will likely not get better during the holidays, when people are out shopping in force."

When making an order, ask yourself if you'll still want that item three months or even half a year from now. Because, like Elson, that might be how long you'll have to wait. "Oh, I totally still want it," Elson says of her lost chair. "It was not an impulse purchase. But it was a good exercise in patience."

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