HIGH POINT, NC - New orders for residential furniture increased 4 percent in July compared to a year earlier, continuing a 16-month string of increased orders, according to the latest survey of residential furniture manufacturers and distributors by High Point accounting and consulting firm Smith Leonard.

Year-to-date orders continue to be 5 percent ahead of 2014 figures. Orders have increased 24 out of the past 25 months, boding well for the industry, according to the latest issue of Furniture Insights, a monthly publication of Smith Leonard.

Shipments for July were up 7 percent compared to last year's figures, though down 11 percent in June. "That is typical with most companies shutting down a week in July for the holiday," noted Ken Smith, managing partner.

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Year-to-date shipments were up 7 percent compared to 2014, with 72 percent of the survey participants reporting increases. Backlogs were up 9 percent over July 2014 figures, but down from June's 12 percent.

"Last year at this time, backlogs were up 5 percent so overall, backlogs remain pretty heavy," Smith added. Consumer confidence reports were relatively positive, and retail sales were up slightly from 2014 levels.

"We also continue to hear street talk that business is just lacking consistency. While it appears that business continues to improve, there is some concern over the lack of consistency. Yet, other than the stock market (and all the presidential campaign rhetoric), most conditions are pretty good for the industry," he said.

July posted a 3 percent gain in factory and warehouse employees. The survey also showed a 9 percent rise in payrolls  over July 2014, and 6 percent year-to-date, which continues to be in line with current business, the report stated.

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