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From Home Furnishing Business

Furniture Insights: April Shipments up 13 Percent

An early Spring High Point Market helped drive a 13 percent jump in April for new furniture orders compared with the same month last year, according to the latest Furniture Insights survey.

High Point accounting and consulting firm Smith Leonard conducts the monthly survey of residential furniture manufacturers and distributors.

"We expect that some of this large increase is due to the fact that the High Point April Market was early in 2014 (starting April 5) versus a late market in 2013 (starting April 20)," said Smith Leonard Managing Partner Ken Smith. "With market starting early in the month, there is more time to record after market orders in April. We will see if this affects May order rates. Approximately 77 percent of our participants reported increased orders in April, up from 62 percent in March."
New orders were up 5 percent compared to the first four months of 2013.

"Remember that through February, orders were flat so March and April have rebounded very well," Smith noted. "Through April, orders were up for approximately 60 percent of our participants, up from about 50 percent reported last month."
April 2014 shipments rose 12 percent over April 2013 but were down 8 percent from March. Shipments were up for almost 85 percent of survey participants, up from about 80 percent reported last month.
Year-to-date, shipments were up 6 percent over the same period a year ago; and up from the 4 percent increase reported through March.

Backlogs were up 13 percent from April 2013 and stayed even with March levels.
Receivable levels rose 14 percent over April 2013, somewhat in line with the 12 percent increase in shipments. Receivables were up 2 percent over March even though shipments were down.

"We expect this is a timing issue but we will watch next month. Since receivable levels have been in line for some time now, we do not expect this to be an issue," Smith said.
Inventories were 4 percent higher than April 2013 but down 1 percent from March; and those levels remain in line with current business conditions.
Factory and warehouse employment held steady with March 2014 and rose 5 percent over April 2013--consistent with a monthly 5 percent increase through 2014.  Factory and warehouse payrolls rose 6 percent over April 2013, but were down from the 11 percent increase reported last month. Year-to-date, payrolls were up 7 percent, down from 8 percent reported last month, but in line with current business conditions. 

"The best news this month was the increase in consumer confidence," Smith said in summary. "The survey showed the highest index since January 2008. This certainly bodes well for the furniture industry as we all pretty much agree that, no matter what the other factors are showing, we have to have good consumer confidence for business to be good.
"We continue to believe that upholstery business is performing better than case goods, but we also were encouraged by some case goods folks saying that business for these goods picked up at market. We think the housing market improvements should help at case goods business over time. One of the other things we are hearing in the upholstery side of the business is the lack of labor. This has been especially true in both North Carolina and Mississippi."

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