Supply chains and logistics were thrown into chaos during the pandemic, creating a number of challenges including trade disruptions, port congestion, and soaring freight rates.
Brands selling and manufacturing furniture especially felt the strain caused by these delays. Delays and cancellations led to backlogs. Port bottlenecks emerged.
But not all retailers were affected in the same way.
For furniture brand Castlery, long lead times are one reason supply chain management has always been a priority for the business.
“In furniture, where the products are not only bulky but non-standard size, efficient supply chain management is critical to ensure a seamless customer experience in terms of fulfillment and timely deliver,” said Declan Ee, Castlery’s co-founder.
The past two years have been challenging for the furniture retail industry, and many manufacturers still haven’t caught up with their backlogs. In light of this, retailers are now finding clever ways to adapt to these new situations and overcome the ongoing supply chain crisis.
New Partners, Greater Flexibility, and Less Storage
While other business verticals moved quickly to air freight, the bulk, weight, and size of furniture made that option unviable for most merchants.
Instead, manufacturers look to set up facilities in close proximity to minimize shipping costs and delays. In fact, the US factory activity reached its highest level in nearly two and a half years at the end of 2020.
Cementing new partnerships is a good way to prepare retailers for unexpected supplier delays. At the onset of the pandemic, digitally-native furniture brand Interior Define worked to partner with service providers so their customers won’t have to deal with resulting hassles and frustrations.
“The recent challenges further reinforced a need to plan ahead for any eventuality, to ensure we’re working with the right partners, and to build in the flexibility to source products closer to home,” said William Savage, Interior Define’s Chief Supply Chain Officer.
Another way Interior Define resolved pandemic-related transportation and logistics issues was by creating a rapid, on-demand product development process that removed the need for storage.
With this data-driven approach, the brand is able to set a one to six-month cycle for its customizable furniture options covering product development, launch, feedback, and modification.
Expanding warehouses is another way to prevent supply chain disruptions and meet customer demands at scale. Castlery recently opened a new 100,000 sq. ft. facility in New Jersey in hopes of creating a buffer against future supply chain bottlenecks by stockpiling goods.
Decentralized warehouse facilities set up in key locations can also help furniture brands achieve faster delivery times instead of relying on 3PLs to speed things up.
Will these supply chain issues eventually dissipate? It’s too soon to tell. However, the furniture industry has long struggled with delays. The pandemic only brought these issues into sharper focus.
Technology and a creative approach to steer clear of supply chain and logistics nightmares can help the industry satisfy the needs of consumers with the shortest lead-times possible.