New furniture orders
The Phillips Collection showroom at Las Vegas Market

Orders for new furniture rise, report says

Ken Smith was getting tired of reporting monthly declines in new orders for residential furniture. His latest survey of manufacturers finds better news.

“The July orders were up 6 percent over July 2018, following five months of reporting declines in new orders,” said Smith, assurance partner for Smith Leonard, an accounting and consulting firm in High Point, N.C. Smith’s practice focuses on the furniture industry.

“I think it was good,” Smith told the Home Furnishings Association about his report, which was released Sept. 27. “I just hope it’s not a blip. I hope we’ve started a trend. At least we ended a negative trend.”

Not every indicator was positive, however, and not every manufacturer reported an increase in furniture orders.

“Once again, the good news was not for all participants as only 53 percent of the participants reported increased furniture orders for July compared to last year,” Smith wrote. “The increase in July reduced the year-to-date orders decrease to a 2 decline, down from 3 percent reported last month. Orders were down year-to-date for 67 percent of the participants.”

Housing offers reason for optimism

Smith noted a decline in consumer confidence, which had been exceptionally high for months, but pointed to increases in housing starts and sales of new and existing homes, which normally generate greater furniture sales.

“That may bode well for us over the next six months,” he said. But it’s not a guarantee. “Who knows who’s buying and what their needs are?”

There are other positive signs. Unemployment remains low while hiring, personal incomes and savings continue to grow. Yet, Smith remains chagrined at consumer items, including new gadgets, that people purchase ahead of home furnishings. He said he’d just heard of a dual-screen phone selling for about $2,000. “There goes a sofa and two chairs,” he said.

In comments with his report, Smith added: “We look forward to seeing everyone at the High Point Market. As usual, good friends and great looking product shown in the best possible way all tend to turn the mood of market to a good one.”

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