HIGH POINT — Furniture exports were down by 23% in the first half, a reflection of weak demand for U.S.-made furniture in countries that were still reeling from the global pandemic.
According to figures compiled by Furniture Today, the U.S. shipped $826.2 million of furniture around the world from January through June, compared with nearly $1.08 billion in the same period the year before.
This lackluster demand represented double- digit drops in shipments to nine of the top 10 international destinations for U.S.-made case goods, upholstery and bedding.
The only outlier was Taiwan, where shipments more than doubled, from $4.2 million to $9.5 million, during the period.
Shipments to Canada, the top market for U.S.-made furniture and bedding, fell 18%, from $648.6 million to $533.3 million while shipments to Mexico fell 23%, from $60.7 million to $46.6 million. Shipments to the U.K. fell 43%, from $31.9 million to $18.2 million, and shipments to South Korea fell 17%, from $21 million to $17.4 million.
Meanwhile, shipments to Saudi Arabia, a major market in the Middle East, fell 16%, from $17.8 million to $14.9 million, and shipments to the Bahamas fell 32%, from $18.8 million to $12.8 million.
Of the top export markets, China had the largest percentage drop. Shipments there fell 61%, from $26.9 million to $10.6 million.
There were also decreases to Japan, down 25% to $10.3 million, and Australia, down 22% to $10.1 million.
With the exception of the British pound and the Mexican peso, both of which have had weak spots against the U.S. dollar in recent months, the drop in shipments appears to have less to do with major changes in currency valuation (which can make goods more expensive in those markets) and more to do with softness in various markets due to COVID-19.
Products at the high end in particular also have suffered due to retaliatory tariffs China has enforced against some U.S.-made goods, including furniture.
Andy Bray, president of Vanguard Furniture, said, “While international sales are not a major contributor to our revenue, we do pay attention to it, and furniture has fared better than exports in general.”
He cited a report from Wells Fargo that noted U.S. exports plunged at an annualized rate of 64% in the second quarter alone due to major foreign economies going into lockdown mode.
Andrew Crone, CEO of Chaddock, said that the company did a lot of international business several years ago, but it has “steadily trended down. We have had to pick that up on the domestic side.”
However, he said the company still sells some product to the Middle East.
“It is so project driven,” Crone said, adding that while export business continues to be down from where it once was, “we have had some projects, which are great.”
Mike Jolly, president and chief operating officer at Baker, said the company’s new Baker Luxe collection, which is already in its fourth cutting and possibly heading to a fifth based on response at market, is doing well internationally.
“We have shipped some to China and are shipping it to Thailand. And the Middle East also has written a lot of business on it,” he said, noting that the launch of the collection earlier this spring allowed the company to get ahead of the curve on product development. This, he said, will continue to help flow and ship goods to customers – both domestic and internationally – sooner vs. later.
Yet overall exports to China, he said, were soft in the first half, while the Middle East and other parts of Asia remained strong. Still, with the drop off in China, he said, overall exports were down by double digits in the first half.