The tough winter slowed down everything this year, including consumer spending on furniture. The Furniture Insights newsletter, released by Smith Leonard PLLC last week, found that factory orders increased about 2% while shipping increased just 3% this January from the same month last year. Those numbers indicated the slowest growth rates in the last 10 months, and are generally being attributed to the weather.
“The 2% increase was pretty much in line with expectations as we had heard that orders had slowed somewhat in January, blamed to some degree on the weather,” said Ken Smith, who authored the newsletter.
Official numbers have not yet been released, but Smith says that there was a slowdown in February and March as well. The weather has impacted suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, trucking operations, and even retailers who have had to close their doors during severe storms. Not to mention that consumers would rather bundle up and stay warm inside than venture out to shop for new furniture.
Of course, the housing industry also plays a role in consumers buying furniture, as many home builders will avoid filling new homes with old furniture and choose to buy at that time. Though consumer confidence is high and there are indicators of improvement, lower housing activity — also a result of the weather, at least in part — attributed to lowered furniture sales.
“If there is such a thing as pent-up demand in the industry, we certainly should have some now,” Smith said. “But we still need housing to continue to improve.”
Home-building utilizes all kinds of materials, and building is not simple. Early log cabins that were built in the 19th Century were made out of the materials available during westward expansion, but now, the items used to build homes are shipping in from all over the place. So it should come as no surprise that building slowed as the winter froze infrastructure.
In the coming months, expectations are that as the temperature rises, so too will furniture sales and shipping rates.