New orders still flat, survey says

Furniture orders for the first quarter of 2019 were flat, following a slight dip in March from a year earlier, the latest Smith Leonard industry survey found.

“Only 42 percent of the participants posted increased orders year to date,” the High Point, N.C., accounting and consulting firm said of its monthly survey of residential furniture manufacturers and distributors. It released its report May 29.

“We just keep thinking that business should be better than it is,” Assurance Partner Kenneth D. Smith wrote in a commentary with the report. “Job creation and increased incomes should not only help with home buying (considering low mortgage rates) but also should help furniture sales.”

Smith especially noted high consumer confidence but said “it has not yet bled over to retail buying.” He cited storms and flooding resulting in terrible damage in parts of the country, stating “clearly, those issues are affecting business.” Also troubling: trade disputes that are impacting the stock market and worrying some consumers.

Will summer sales heat up?

Shipments declined 3 percent in March from a year earlier but were up 3 percent for the quarter, the report said. New orders, shipments and payrolls were all up significantly in March from February 2019, however.

Smith, who has focused his practice on furniture for 40 years, pointed to hopeful signs, including a little pick-up in business following the High Point Market and a “bit more optimism in May.”

“Hopefully, Memorial Day sales were good for most and we can kick off summer with those sales,” he concluded.

The full report is here.

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