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From Home Furnishing Business

Port Woes

Just when players in the furniture industry think they have the logistics side of importing all figured out, something comes along and smacks the entire industry in the face.

The most recent slap was painful.

The West Coast labor dispute that caused a months-long slowdown at some of the busiest ports in the U.S hurt. Those same ports are the ones many furniture importers use to bring in their goods for sale here in our country. The logjam is still being cleaned up and will be for sometime.

While there’s a preliminary agreement in place that have workers moving again, there’s a rogue faction that has said it disagrees with the agreement. Negotiations continued at our presstime.

This has been a precarious situation for our industry. Furniture executives are quite adept at tackling problems head on and finding creative solutions. Once the solution is implemented, the problem gets checked off the list.

The port slowdowns—perhaps in the future it will be port shutdowns—fell completely out of reach for the industry’s brightest problem solvers. The issue impacted an abundance of suppliers and retailers. The few domestic suppliers were unscathed, of course, but for the most part, this has been an across-the-board blow.

And, the timing couldn’t have been worse. Companies involved in premarket in High Point were struggling to get goods in time. Regrettably, some missed out and their product was still sitting on container ships waiting their turn to come in for unloading. Other companies opted to pay the additional cost of sending goods via air freight, and still more paid the cost of surcharges that felt more like exorbitant premiums.

I’ve heard from a few who were still waiting at the end of March for product to be unloaded. I’ll be interested to see in Market showrooms how many new collections didn’t make it to the big dance.

The supply chain broke down, and it stands to happen again when the union contract expires at ports on the East Coast in the next couple of years.

Perhaps it’s time to start crafting a strategy for when that time comes. I’m not sure what the plan is or how it will work, but I do know that a predicament like this one would be just as painful.



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