A recent research report on the global furniture market predicts the industry will grow by $22.67 billion between 2020 and 2024.
A research report that analyzes the global furniture market for the next four years and that was carried out by Technavio showed a growing demand for modern and luxury furniture. The company predicts that the industry will grow by $22.67 Billion between 2020 and 2024 and the furniture products manufactured in the US that will be in the highest demand are seating items, tables, and storage units.
Before the financial crisis, the furniture industry was extremely successful. For instance, in January 2000, the furniture manufacturing segment had no less than 670,000 workers. By 2010, the numbers had dropped to just 360,000 workers. However, in recent years, the furniture industry has started to improve and it is now hitting the 400,000-workers mark.
For the first time since the financial crisis, the US furniture manufacturers such as RestaurantFurniture.NET are working tirelessly. Many of them are expanding their businesses in the US and the longtime furniture factories are buzzing with activity. But, as amazing as that sounds, the manufacturers are facing a difficult task – finding enough skilled workers to support the booming business.
The US labor market is tight and business owners are struggling to fill their open spots, and furniture companies make no exception. Having been hit by Chinese competitors for decades, furniture manufacturers are now facing a different challenge. The young generation of American workers has steered clear of the industry by choosing to study engineering, psychology, social sciences, health, and business. This left the furniture industry heavily reliant on a workforce that is aging rapidly. Because of the worker storage, the delivery times have been stretched to several weeks causing many companies to lose orders. Many factory owners and executives are worried and admit that when the last wave of workers will retire, finding new people might be impossible.
But how did a business sector that faced a lot of hardship and difficulty become successful again? The answer is simple. The internet has transformed the general shopping behavior, preferences, and expectations of American consumers. People now demand personalized items and like to choose fabrics and features that will match their homes. Many of them want the products delivered fast and Chinese companies cannot offer this service. Products from China can take up to two months or even more to arrive. At the same time, the production costs overseas are growing, and American manufacturers need to move production home.
According to the Furnishings Digest published by investment bank and research firm Mann, Armistead, and Epperson Ltd., about 90% of bookcases, dining tables, and other items made of wood are manufactured abroad. But more than 50% of the upholstered furniture sold in the US is produced on American soil in places like Catawba County.
In contrast to the production process of many overseas factories, the upholstery industry is not well-suited to extensive production runs of the same item. Upholstered chairs and sofas can be very difficult to ship and are, generally speaking, more costly than tables and bookcases. Additionally, shipping one custom-made item from another continent is way too costly and time-consuming, so importing a beautifully upholstered sofa from China is more often than not, impossible.
According to industry expert Johnny Bray, most companies that made it through the crisis are now experiencing significant growth. The only problem was that when the business finally picked up, they were unable to find enough skilled people. For this reason, a few industry giants together with Catawba Valley Community College joined forces and created the Catawba Valley Furniture Academy. Additionally, furniture companies are also offering attractive health benefits and creating internal training programs.
Chad Ballard, a young man from Daytona, Florida, worked as a swimming pool builder and tree trimmer when he learned about a job opening in the furniture-making industry. Because the job was attractive, Ballard moved to Hickory and enlisted in the newly opened Catawba Valley Furniture Academy. Now an upholstery student, upon finishing his studies, Ballard can increase his annual pay to $40,000 and, if he becomes a master of the craft, he can even get up to $70,000 or more. And the company that hired him feels like they won a small lottery by hiring someone young and passionate about the industry.
27-year-old Casey Pennington is another student who is happy to attend the academy for nine months, after which she is guaranteed to get a job at one of the founding companies. Pennington’s husband is also a furniture-maker and an instructor at the academy. Pennington admits that furniture-making is not something that you can just sit down and immediately know how to do. According to her “There’s definitely an art to it” and the fact that her hourly rate can reach up to $30 doesn’t hurt.
There’s no doubt that the Catawba Valley Furniture Academy will change a lot of lives. It might even save the industry by giving it its much-needed employees. The furniture industry is now much more stable and things are looking up for US manufacturers. The only thing left to do is for industry giants to join their efforts and create more academies and training programs that will attract people to the jobs of the future.