DAYTON – The pandemic has caused many shutdowns during the past year. These shutdowns have negatively affected many retail sectors, in particular furniture and home furnishing stores.
According to a UBS study, 820 home furnishing stores closed during the first half of 2020. In fact, UBS expects that number to climb to 11,280 by 2025, ranking it third in total number of closures after clothing and accessories stores and consumer electronics stores.
The effects of the pandemic can be seen in Better Business Bureau statistics regarding Miami Valley area furniture retailers. BBB had nearly 10,250 inquiries locally about furniture retailers in 2020. It also had 400 complaints filed against companies in the industry, making it the third most complained about industry in the Miami Valley.
“Furniture retailers are being impacted in two ways by the pandemic,” John North, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Dayton and Miami Valley, said. “Furniture production has been delayed because of the pandemic. Manufacturers are also behind and are still trying to catch up on orders due to the shutdowns. The best advice is to ask retailers about delivery times and be patient.”
Robert Klaben, vice president of communications, Morris Furniture Co., Inc., said, “With consumers spending more time in their homes due to the pandemic, demand for furniture and mattresses has far outpaced supply. Many furniture manufacturers shut down production lines completely or reduced output uncertain of how long retail stores would be closed and fear of high levels of unsold inventory. When retail stores reopened last spring, many manufacturers were slow to ramp production back to pre-COVID levels due to severe shortages of labor, supplies and transportation delays.”
Klaben continued, “We expect the demand for furniture to continue to be at near record levels through the end of 2021 since sheltering at home will continue for many until the vaccines are given to most that want them. We encourage all shoppers to plan ahead for their furniture shopping needs, at least 120 days before you want your new furniture in your home. For those shoppers that have placed orders and have experience delays, be patient and keep orders in place. If you cancel, you’ll go to the back of the line and may be in for an even longer delay.”
To save time, money and the risk of disappointment, BBB suggests consumers keep some furniture buying tips in mind:
• Decide what you need before you shop. Figure out what pieces of furniture you need. Consider what you’ll be using the furniture for and who will be using it most. Will the piece be placed inside or outside? Do you have kids or pets that will be using it? Once deciding what you need, research different materials to determine what’s best for you.
• Research different materials. There are two major types of furniture: upholstered and case goods. Upholstered goods consist of things like couches and chairs covered in fabric. When choosing an upholstered good, consider your lifestyle and colors. Also, test the cushions and check the springs. Case goods consist of tables, cabinets and shelves. Be sure to check: what type of wood it’s made from, do drawers and doors open and shut completely, and if the wood is joined at ends and corners, etc.
• Set a budget. Be sure your budget includes total costs, including taxes, delivery, interest, etc.
• Measure and make a floor plan. Bring it with you along with a tape measure to easily measure furniture you’re considering to see if it’s the correct size. Also, measure any doors or hallways the new piece is required to get through.
• Shop around for quality and price, as well as credit terms and service. Consider reputation and length of time in business. Taking advantage of seasonal deals and clearance may also be a great option.
• Look at online reviews and ask friends and family for recommendations.
• Be sure you know how to maintain the furniture to avoid ruining it.
• Be careful shopping online. You may not know the exact color and size from a computer screen. If possible, check out the furniture in person. Also, only shop on secure websites making sure the URL where payment is collected starts with https:// and look for a small padlock icon usually located at the corner of the URL bar. These symbols tell shoppers a website is secure.
• Read labels. The Federal Trade Commission requires manufacturers to put every material used in the making of the piece on the label to inform buyers if it contains any toxic, flame-retardant chemicals. It also requires the label to state where it was made and the manufacturer’s registry number.
• Look into the warranty and return policy. Understand if you’re buying the furniture with a warranty or if you’re purchasing the furniture “as-is.” Ask about the warranty start and end dates. Understand the stores return policy and know exactly what the business will do if there is an issue. Also, ask about restocking fees.
• Keep order documentation. Get a written contract, including price, delivery date, guarantees and warranties. Make sure you understand everything before signing.
• Make sure you have realistic delivery expectations. Discuss the delivery date with the dealer and make sure that date is something you can live with.
• Determine if you want a furniture protection plan, which is like an insurance policy on your furniture. If you get one of these plans and something happens to your furniture, you can file a claim and receive compensation to repair the damage. But, before you purchase one, know what it covers and how it works.
• Consider the pros and cons of using in-store furniture financing before signing up. It may be a good deal if you pay off the money you borrow within the zero-interest financing period. However, if you don’t repay your entire principal amount before the financing period ends, you may find yourself owing the deferred interest. Another benefit of using in-store financing is you will not be required to make any payments until delivery in your home, whereas by using other lines of credit you’ll have to start making payments before your furniture is received.
The BBB also can help with furniture purchases. Visit BBB.org or call 937-222-5825 or 800-776-5301 for a list of BBB accredited furniture or home furnishing stores or business profiles on the ones you may be considering.