Report: Slowing sales raise pressure on furniture prices

May 3—HIGH POINT — Faced with slowing sales, some in the furniture industry are pushing to begin cutting retail prices, according to a consulting firm's latest monthly report on the industry's sales trends.

Discussions with furniture makers and retailers at the recent spring High Point Market reflected trends seen for a number of months now, the latest Furniture Insights report from the Smith-Leonard firm said.

"For retailers, the comments were that traffic is down but those that do shop, seem to be buying," the report said.

Smith-Leonard's monthly survey of furniture makers and distributors found that in February new orders declined for 80% of those surveyed, dropping to pre-pandemic levels: The February orders number was 17% below the one for February 2020, the month before COVID-19 began hitting the economy.

After that initial pandemic jolt, the furniture industry saw a boom in orders that continued into 2022 and enabled companies to raise prices and establish healthier profit margins.

The current slowdown may be threatening that, the report said.

"The one issue we heard at Market that was also troubling was the continued push to lower retail prices," it said.

Smith-Leonard has argued in past Furniture Insights reports for companies to resist pressure to drop prices.

"It has been proven that product could be sold at the higher prices. We understand that prices can and should be dropped for the change in container costs, but most other prices for material and labor have not gone down much, if any," the new report said. "It would be a shame for the industry to give back much-needed margins that were seen during the pandemic."

Slower sales and higher price pressures aside, the report noted strong attendance at Market.

"The significant retailers and buyers were here, and more and more designers continue to come," it said.