HIGH POINT, N.C. - Residential furniture orders jumped 15% in April compared to the year prior, marking four straight months of year-over-year growth, according to the latest Furniture Insights survey of residential furniture manufacturers and distributors from Smith Leonard. An estimated 79% of those surveyed reported an increase in new orders for April, up from 42% reporting growth in March, the accounting and consulting firm reported.

"We had heard at the High Point Market that business seemed to have picked up a bit. We also heard that order writing at Market was one of the best in a while. That said, we did not expect that our monthly survey of residential furniture manufacturers and distributors would show a 15% increase in new orders in April 2018 versus April 2017," said Ken Smith, managing partner at Smith Leonard. "Market being a week earlier in April 2018 versus 2017 had some impact in that orders not written at Market had more time to be placed, but, for either reason, the results for April were very good."

The gain in April brings the year-to-date new orders tally up 6%.

"While the first quarter of 2018 was nothing to get too excited about, our survey results for April were very good overall and good for most of the participants. These results brought year to date orders up nicely and resulting shipments improved," Smith said.

Shipments were up 10% in April compared to 2017 figures, and up 3% for the year, with 61% of the participants reporting increases. Backlogs were up 6% from April 2017, and up the same amount compared to March figures, Smith Leonard reported. Backlogs had been down slightly in three of the last four months, the firm said.

Receivables dropped 7% from last April, which was attributed to either "some issues with the reports or it is clearly a timing issue."

Inventories were even with March, and 7% higher than April 2017.

Although consumer confidence remains very high, "Overall business in May and June, based on our conversations, has not continued as strong," Smith reported.

"Housing is not helping. While housing starts are improving and new home sales have continued to pick up, existing home sales are struggling with low inventories, higher prices and higher interest rates. We need people to be moving in these summer months to generate furniture sales."

Sales at furniture and home furnishings stores were up 3.5% in May compared to 2017, with year-to-date retail sales up 5.2% compared to the same period a year ago.

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