Sallyanne and Chuck Palmer were looking forward to buying furniture for their new home in The Villages, a collection of communities in central Florida. But the couple faced a problem that’s become common in 2021: backorders and lengthy delays.
“It’s a mess,” says Frank Lutz, owner of Oceanside Casual Furniture in Rehoboth Beach, DE, which is undergoing a housing boom. “In my 20 years of business, I’ve seen nothing like this.”
Before the pandemic, one popular vendor turned around orders in three weeks. Today, the wait is sixteen weeks, he says.
Extended delivery times are also affecting the appliance industry. For instance, Ryan Cunningham of Lewes, DE, ordered a stove in January 2021 and received it in June. He’s one of the lucky ones.
The delays are due to a combination of factors. “It’s the perfect storm,” Lutz says. When COVID hit, factories shut down, creating a backlog. Now there are staffing shortages across most of the supply spectrum, including trucking.
The ship that blocked the Suez Canal didn’t help matters, nor did freezing temperatures that temporarily closed the Texan chemical plants whose products are needed to make foam and poly lumber.
There’s also a lack of shipping containers—Americans have imported more than they’ve exported, Lutz says. Plus, there’s a shortage of microchips used in so many appliances.
Meanwhile, people in quarantine decided to spruce up their homes—or buy a new one—and the demand for furniture and appliances has soared.
According to The Washington Post, the annual sales of mattresses made by Tempur Sealy International, Casper Sleep, and Purple Innovation were up between 20% and 50% in May 2021 compared to May 2020.
If you’re facing a significant purchase, consider these options.
1. ASK FIRST
Before putting an item on a credit card, inquire about the stock level, suggests Denise Jadd of Domaine Luxe, an interior designer and home stager in Delray Beach, FL. If the store notifies you that there are delays shortly after the purchase, stop payment if you can’t wait.
2. BUY FROM NUMEROUS VENDORS
A large manufacturer may have products in numerous outlets, which helped the Palmers furnish their bedroom.
When their local store could not offer the complete bedroom collection, the couple noted the brand, style, and item numbers and ordered online from multiple vendors.
“We got all the pieces from different sources in 30 days,” Sallyanne Palmer says. “Had I ordered from one place, I would still be waiting.”
3. PURCHASE A FLOOR MODEL
Buying a floor model delivers instant gratification. Admittedly, you may need to put up with scratches and dents, which is precisely what many consumers are doing.
“Our showroom is looking extremely bare,” says Kyle Sawyer, owner of Canadian Home Leisure in Whitby, Ontario. Some items, however, are not for sale. “We have to keep some items on the floor to show customers,” she explains.
4. THINK SECONDHAND
Social media has opened the door to transactions between friends and neighbors. There are also websites like AptDeco, which let users shop and sell used furniture, including Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel brands.
Keep in mind that the resale market is also hot. Just ask Cindy Small of Cooper Kettle Antiques, which sells items in Antique Alley of Bridgeville in Delaware. She chalk-painted a mid-century modern dresser that sold within a week. See something you like? Buy it.
5. KEEP WHAT YOU OWN
There’s nothing wrong with giving life to a new item. Reupholster your sofa, refinish the scratched wood finish or paint the vintage dresser, Jadd suggests.
As for faulty appliances, repair the item if the parts are available and the price point is better than new, says Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly company.
If you make an appointment with a service professional, discuss the product’s lifespan to determine if a repair is worthwhile.
6. GO FOR IT
If you have your heart set on the furniture or appliance, buy it now and get on the delivery list. “Furniture prices are going to go up,” Lutz says. “We’ve already gotten a price list for next year from my vendor, and prices are 12% higher.”
Sawyer agrees. “Get in line,” she says. “Things are bad on a global level, so there’s no use sitting on the sidelines.”