Despite the angst over furniture imports, the U.S. is also significant exporter of household wood furniture, which increased 10.4% to $685 million in 2010—the second best total ever. Canadian purchasing reached at least a 15-year high and exports to China nearly tripled.

January-February exports to China were running five-fold greater in 2011 than 2010. We expect additional growth in shipments to Canada if the US$ remains weak, and sizeable gains in exports to China, where many middle and upper-income consumers want Western-style products. With more U.S. manufacturers looking abroad for sales, exports could surpass $1 billion within a few years.

U.S. household wood furniture factory shipments increased for the first time in half a decade in 2010 (up 3.5% to $5.24 billion), according to the American Home Furnishings Alliance. Meanwhile, imports climbed 14.3% to $8.31 billion (U.S. International Trade Commission figures) and comprised 71% of retail sales, according to consulting firm Mann, Armistead and Epperson.

 Lumber: Weekly Pricing Trends
 Lumber: Weekly Pricing Trends

With furniture inventories high, consumers hesitant or unable to buy on credit, and housing markets quiet, shipments from domestic factories will be flat through much of 2011 (though March recorded a 3.6% rise in retail furniture sales according to the Department of Commerce). By early 2012, however, higher import prices, gradually increasing home sales, and a genuine uptick in retailer demand for American-made furniture should bolster U.S. factory shipments and, in turn, industry demand for lumber.



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