It has been a tumultuous year for home furnishings retailers and their consumers as we have navigated various macroeconomic issues. We have seen inflation with rising energy costs, supply chain disruptions, lingering COVID-19 impacts, and regulatory and legislative efforts on clothing storage unit tip-overs. In May of 2022, the Home Furnishings Association’s Government Relations Action Team (GRAT) returned to Washington, DC, for an in-person fly-in. They met with Members of Congress, White House staff, Administration officials, and other stakeholders to highlight the retail furniture response to these challenges. Read on to see more HFA advocacy efforts in 2022 and what’s to come.
Challenging Economic Conditions
Furniture retailers have experienced several factors adding to the uncertainty of their business, including increased demand throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as consumers were forced to work/school at home. That led to extensive limitations on product availability as the broader supply chain was in disarray from ocean shipping to inland trucking. Container rates soared to historic highs, pressuring prices for vendors, retailers, and consumers. Along the way, furniture retailers did all they could to absorb those increasing costs and manage uncertainty. Consumers waited 8 – 12 months for products – there was no better way to illustrate these dynamics than to explain them in person to policymakers in Washington, DC.
While it was not an easy time, furniture retailers and their employees were resilient in the face of an unprecedented business environment. As we continue through this business/buying cycle phase, container and shipping rates have returned closer to normal, and delivery times have become more reasonable. As we begin to adjust, we are staring down the possibility of a massive railroad worker strike ahead of the holidays, threatening huge supply chain chaos. The furniture industry has joined many other sectors to urge the Biden Administration and Congress to intervene and avoid this pending strike.
Furniture Tip-Over Standard
Looking ahead into 2023, a pending regulation from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) creating a mandatory safety standard for clothing storage units will transform the bedroom furniture category. As the CPSC rolled out its proposal earlier this year, it noted that ONE single unit it tested (out of nearly 200) would meet its minimum standard. For furniture manufacturers and retailers, that means all clothing storage units must be redesigned/engineered before they are sold. The CPSC Final Rule was published in the Federal Register in late November 2022, so the industry will have until late May 2023 (180 days) to comply.
With its continuing commitment to safety, the furniture industry-built consensus within the ASTM voluntary standard subcommittee responsible for an existing voluntary tip-over standard with revisions to address concerns from parent and consumer groups. Congress recognized this critical effort – in September 2022, and the U.S. Senate passed a new version of the STURDY Act via unanimous consent (big deal!), which requires the CPSC to adopt the revised voluntary standard as its mandatory federal standard. Negotiations are ongoing in the House to advance this bill to the President’s desk. Regardless, significant change is coming to bedroom/clothing storage units. So, no matter where you are in the furniture ecosystem, whether manufacturer, retailer, or consumer, you must prepare for these updated standards.
Over the last two years, furniture markets have come back in-person, returning the personal touch to this high-relationship industry. Connecting with policymakers in D.C. was valuable for furniture industry advocacy as we can directly share HFA member experiences and commitments to critical issues under consideration on supply chain, ocean shipping, port capacity, furniture tip-over, and more. We look forward to continuing this advocacy in 2023, as these issues will continue to impact all aspects of our industry and your business.