Will the Supply Chain Crisis Impact Outdoor Furniture Shopping This Year?
Industry executives advise: Shop sooner rather than later if you have your heart set on a new patio set for this summer.
If you are looking to create that perfect backyard environment for summer fun and family “stay-cations” this summer, you may want to start shopping for your new outdoor furniture and accessories sooner rather than later, according to industry experts. The outdoor and casual furniture industry is facing issues similar to those that plagued the conventional furniture industry last year, when consumers were forced to wait months or even up to a year for all types of upholstered furniture, mattresses, and case goods.
Sharply increased demand among consumers for all types of products is among the factors creating global shortages and rising raw materials prices on everything from foam and fabrics to wood and metal, all integral components to outdoor furniture and accessories. Combine these issues with a shortage of shipping containers, congestion at major U.S. ports, pandemic-fueled domestic and international labor shortages, the war in Ukraine, and rising gas prices, and it is easy to see why shoppers may want to purchase or order their furnishings now, even though spring has just begun.
There is some good news, however: Although not all new products are in stock and available immediately, retailers and manufacturers anticipated potential shortages and have been stockpiling inventory, so there is a good assortment available…especially if you’re not wedded to one particular design or style.
The ongoing global pandemic that has required everyone to “shelter in place” has caused many consumers to rethink their interior and exterior furnishings, leading to incredible demand for all things “home.” This means that homeowners are investing more in their patio furnishings and accessories: The global casual and outdoor furniture market is expected to reach $22 billion by 2026, an increase from $17.1 billion in 2020, according to a study published by market research firm Global Industry Analysts.
Carol Daus, Managing Editor of Patio & Hearth Products Report, a leading industry trade magazine, concurs. “There continues to be buyer interest as the trend for extending living space into outdoor residential areas keeps growing,” she says, adding that in addition to installing outdoor kitchens and outdoor entertainment centers, “some customers have even set up outdoor offices for remote work and outdoor ‘bedrooms’ in warm climates.”
Jessie Flanders, chief executive officer and creative director for Lloyd Flanders, a leading manufacturer, agrees that more people are spending more time in their own backyards. “COVID and the subsequent return to appreciation for gathering with friends and family in outdoor spaces has reignited a passion for our outdoor living spaces.”
“People will continue to invest time and money into their backyards,” says Daus. “As increasing numbers of people swap travel for stay-cations, they are motivated to create their own outdoor oasis that at least makes them feel like they’re on vacation.”
Shortages Impact Shoppers
Unsurprisingly, however, all this demand has led to some shortages. Daus points out that specialty retailers and manufacturers in the outdoor/casual furniture industry have been greatly impacted by supply chain snags—from fabric to raw material shortages, as well as container shortages and poor congestion at the ports.
“Throughout this period with COVID, plants in Asia have experienced work stoppages/delays in production due to the virus, so limited production overseas was one major factor,” she says. “In 2020 and 2021, small, independent retailers in our market were overwhelmed by consumer demand and many were left with little inventory on their showroom floors.
Fortunately, manufacturers have been responsive to the slowdowns and to the increased demand. “The good news,” Daus says, “is that shipping delays and costs have improved, and inventories are stabilizing in 2022.”
Flanders agrees, saying, “While there will be some uncertainty, you can feel us inching closer and closer to enjoying a return to a ‘normal’ feel,” adding that her company has “increased our inventory levels from the minute we reopened after the initial COVID shutdown, expanded our manufacturing hours where possible, increased hiring to fill the surge in demand, and widened our number of suppliers in areas that have been hardest hit by supply constraints.”
Jaclyn C. Hirschhaut, executive director of the International Casual Furnishings Association says that outdoor furniture manufacturers are working to deliver orders as quickly as possible. “There are some stores that shifted their traditional buying strategies over the past two years to bring more inventory to their warehouses, which positions them to be able to deliver a purchase quickly,” she adds.
Sooner is better
Nevertheless, the global supply chain remains in flux, and while retailers, manufacturers, and industry experts all agree that the best assortment of outdoor furniture hits store shelves in early spring, they also caution that merchandise may not stay in stock for long.
“Our patio and outdoor living products are available both online and in-store,” notes Stephanie Meyering, senior manager of brand communications at The Home Depot. “As always, we encourage customers to shop early for the largest selection.”
“There is no such thing as shopping ‘early’ for outdoor furnishings,” says Hirschhaut. “The weather is changing in many parts of the country to welcome the start of enjoying our porches, patios and decks. Sooner is better when it comes to starting the shopping process for your outdoor spaces.”