Challenges Facing the Furniture & Design Industry in 2024: Part II

November 20, 2023
3 min
Laura Fernandez

2024 presents a constellation of challenges for furniture, design and materials manufacturers and distributors. In part I of this series, we explored the economic, marketing and technological forces that are impacting the market. In part II, we dive into operational challenges such as supply chain, labor, and environmental factors.

Supply Chain Challenges: Ensuring Smooth Flow of Goods

The furniture and design industry is heavily reliant on global supply chains, which have been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions. These disruptions led to delays, shortages, and increased costs, as well as overstocking issues later on, impacting both manufacturers and retailers. Companies need to develop strategies to mitigate supply chain risks, such as diversifying sourcing, investing in inventory management software, and exploring nearshoring options.

The imposition of tariffs by the U.S. government on various products imported from certain countries, as well as countering tariffs on exports, has had an adverse impact on business, including the increased costs for certain raw materials The tariffs on imports, most notably imports from China, have impacted the cost of steel, a key commodity for furniture and lighting products. 

Further escalation of geopolitical tensions could have a broader impact that expands into other markets, which could adversely affect sales and/or supply chains, business partners, or customers. Current and additional international sanctions against Russia and other countries are likely to further increase the cost of various supplies, particularly for petroleum-based products. The impact of ongoing conflicts, as well as international sanctions, cannot be predicted or anticipated with any reasonable degree of certainty.

Skilled Workforce Shortages: Finding the Right Talent

The furniture and design industry faces a shortage of skilled labor, particularly in areas such as plant production, upholstery, woodworking, and marketing. This talent gap can hinder production and innovation, making it crucial for furniture companies to invest in training programs.

Labor shortages have also led to higher wages for employees (or higher costs to purchase the services of such third parties), and increased costs from certain temporary wage actions, such as hiring and referral bonus programs. This will, consequently, translate into a reduction in profits.

Sustainability Concerns: Addressing Environmental Impact

Sustainability is becoming a critical consideration for consumers, architecture and interior design studios, who are increasingly demanding eco-friendly options. In some instances, new projects won’t get greenlit unless they satisfy several sustainability parameters. Furniture and materials manufacturers must prioritize the use of sustainable materials, increase transparency, reduce waste in production processes, and implement energy-efficient practices to minimize their environmental impact.

Increased focus by the U.S. and other governmental authorities on climate change and other environmental matters has led to enhanced regulation in these areas, which is expected to result in increased compliance costs and subject companies to additional potential liabilities. 

Adaptability and Innovation: The Keys to Success

Manufacturers and distributors must embrace adaptability and true innovation, fostering resilient supply chains, investing in workforce development, and prioritizing sustainable practices to remain competitive and meet the evolving demands of consumers and the market. By proactively addressing these challenges, the industry can emerge stronger and better positioned to shape the future of interior design and the spaces we inhabit.

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