As if being a furniture sales representative wasn’t difficult enough before COVID-19, it’s downright crazy now. Many players in the industry are fighting their own battles with the flow of products due to supply chain disruptions and are starting to understand what place a good representative has in the sales process.
Before COVID-19 shut down everything, representatives would go to markets, return to territory, present their wares to buyers, visit stores, and train sales staff. Any issues such as customer service issues would be resolved by the representative working with the factory and the retailer. Most of the time, reps struggled to get retailers to return phone calls about product suggestions because retailers had so much choice and so little floor space. At the same time, factories were pushing for ground placements so that they could plan cuttings. Certainly the middle man who takes care of the problems of retailers and factories.
Then comes COVID-19. Government shutdowns force people to stay at home and disrupt the supply chain. The money is printed and given to people who cannot spend it on anything related to the service, so they turn to beautifying their homes where they are confined. Suddenly home furnishings are one of the hottest categories and everyone wants to buy. As a salesperson in the industry, that sounds like a good deal, and it is… until it isn’t.
All of a sudden the reality of providing anyone who wants furniture is met with the challenge of finding factory workers who want to work while the government pays them to stay home. It is facing an inflation in material costs that has not been seen since President Jimmy Carter, and yet it is called transient.
Industry is finding that some of the countries that have become big sources of furniture manufacturing – like Malaysia and Vietnam – have shut down due to COVID-19 spikes, sending retailers and factories scrambling to find new suppliers In other countries. And through that, all the freight goes from $ 3,500 to $ 4,000 per container to over $ 20,000 with no real forecast of when it will come down. Freight ends up being 50-100% of the cost of the actual product. Despite the increase in costs, delivery times range from 6 to 12 months.
Now the work of the representative has become more critical. Retailers are calling for products that can be shipped, and representatives must find a way to get factory production or turn down business. Each month, representatives must process documents from their factories to their retailers regarding the latest price increases and the dates on which they will be implemented.
Regardless of the size of the customer, factories have to get their price increases, or they will drop the retailer because there are a lot of other retailers looking to buy goods. Representatives have to deal with their customers’ arrears, as many have placed orders for months only to see warehouses fill up or lines of credit fill up.
If a retailer decides at the last minute that they want to delay receiving a purchase order, they will find the goods for another customer. It’s more about managing logistics to make sure retailers receive orders when they need them rather than introducing new products.
And the worst part of it all is that factories are guaranteed production and now oversubscribed due to shutdowns in other countries, reps have their biggest customers looking for products and there is nothing for them. offer immediately. If a retailer has formed a good partnership with a factory over the years, the factories do what they can to get the goods to them. But if it is a new relationship even if the representative has cultivated it for years, the production time is very limited.
As a representative it is very frustrating to have worked so hard to see all of these potential businesses sit on the sidelines.
From a representative’s perspective, there is a long way to go before the industry returns to predictability of shipments. Imports are contested due to high container costs and country closures. The inner capacity is full.
Who knows what this latest wave of COVID-19 will wreak further havoc on the labor pool and supply chain in the United States, but it will likely keep more people at home looking at old furniture and looking at it. decide they need to upgrade them. It seems that prices will continuously increase in the short term because there is too much demand than supply.
If you are a retailer, buy as much as you can and don’t cancel orders. The supply chain is getting worse, not getting better, and you will need everything you can get.
The demand is there. If only the offer followed, it would be a rep’s nirvana!