New residential furniture orders up, but shipments down: Smith Leonard
Smith Leonard Furniture Insights

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HIGH POINT, N.C. - New orders for residential furniture rose 2% in March compared to 2023 figures, marking nine out of 10 months for year-over-year growth, according to the latest issue of Furniture Insights. Approximately half of the participants reported increased orders in March compared to a year ago.

Year to date through March saw new order rise 5% compared to 2023 figures, said Mark Laferriere. assurance partner at Smith Leonard, which produces the monthly report.  New orders were flat however, compared to February.

Shipments in March were down 17% from 2023 figures, and also down 4% from February 2024, according to the analyst; approximately 85% of participants reported a decline. For the year to date through March, shipments are down 12% compared to 2023 figures. March backlogs were also down 17% compared to 2023, but up 2% from February 2024.

Receivable levels were down 3% compared to February, and down 9% from March 2023, "which is materially in line with the decline in shipments for same period." Inventories were also down 2% from February, and down 22% from March 2023 — "indicating that companies have substantially adjusted levels to match current operations" Laferriere noted. 

On a seasonally adjusted basis, sales at furniture and home furnishings stores were down 0.5% in April from the previous month, and down 8.4% from April 2023..

"With the first quarter of 2024 in the books for purposes of our monthly stats, and approaching the mid-year mark on the calendar, available data continues to provide conflicting and somewhat perplexing indications for what the remainder of 2024 will hold," Laferriere said.

"Consumers continue to be anxious about future prospects despite certain positive economic trends (e.g. employment), and this seems to be negatively impacting discretionary spending on items such as home furnishings."

He continued, "In addition, it now seems unlikely that the Fed will make any meaningful rate cuts in the next 6 months that would potentially drive additional housing activity and furniture purchases, with inflation still a focus and the elections looming large.

"At this stage, it would seem the remainder of 2024 will continue to be challenging at the macro level, though nothing that the industry hasn’t managed through many times before. Individual operators will continue to look for opportunities amongst the challenges to be well-positioned for when things inevitably swing in the other direction."


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Karen Koenig | Editor

Karen M. Koenig has more than 30 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As editor of special publications under the Woodworking Network brand, including the Red Book Best Practices resource guide and website, Karen’s responsibilities include writing, editing and coordinating of editorial content. She is also a contributor to FDMC and other Woodworking Network online and print media owned by CCI Media. She can be reached at [email protected]