Furniture orders see big turnaround in May, but shipments remain weak

HIGH POINT – New orders rose for 64% of surveyed furniture manufacturers and distributors in May, a large uptick from April, in which 84% of respondents had reported a decline.

According to the monthly furniture insights survey from Smith-Leonard, orders were up 15% over last May. Orders also saw a big gain from April, rising 24%. When looking at year-to-date however, numbers continue to look negative, with 78% reporting lower orders than last year.

Shipments offered a darker outlook, with 71% reporting a decline from last year. Year to date, shipments were down 15%, with 63% reporting a decrease. Backlogs were down slightly as shipment dollars were slightly more than the dollar amount of new orders. Backlogs were down some 61% from last year, similar to the 64% decline reported last month.

Inventories fell 23% from last year and declined 5% from April. In April, inventories fell 12%.

“From what we are hearing, and considering price increases, it appears that inventory levels for manufacturers and distributors are at least somewhat in line with current business conditions,” said Smith.

Manufacturing and warehousing employees were down, falling 9% from last May. Numbers were down 1% from last month.

Smith gave some overall thoughts:

“To us, it seems difficult for the overall economy to really know what the expectations should be. Consumer confidence is up, although that report still mentions recession in spite of the employment numbers being really good.

“The second quarter GDP report was positive and back in a more normal range, yet the leading economic indicators report predicts we are in a recession beginning the third quarter through first quarter 2024. The consumer price index keeps retreating in spite of gas prices rising, although we wonder what the real situation is when the price of a $10 item goes up 8% creating 8% inflation.

“Let’s hope that if it is a recession, it is one that we hardly notice as we hope to return to more normal times soon.”

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