Industry wide delays blog post cover

Delays in the Interior Design Industry

Why is it taking so long to get my stuff?

If you’ve been in the midst of a home renovation or decorating project this post needs no introduction.  No doubt you have faced delays in one form or another.  While this is definitely frustrating, it’s also somewhat mystifying.  Here we will break down for you some of the major sources of these timing difficulties.

How Industry Delays Can Change Your Delivery Timeline

Although not the most serious outcome of the global pandemic, disruptions to the supply chain have impacted the design industry significantly.  Take, for instance, a new sofa.  Gone are the days when lead times for an upholstered piece would be 8 – 10 weeks.  Now, you must prepare for a wait of months, sometimes 5 or more.  Deliveries are currently being described as “fluid”.  What could precipitate such delays?  As it turns out, there are several factors.

 

Fabric Production Issues

Countries throughout Asia, including India, Turkey and China had their facilities shut down for months as their communities coped with the impacts of Covid-19.  As a result, many fabric mills have had to reduce their workforce in accordance with local rules.  Compounding the problem was an early pandemic reduction of orders by furniture retailers as well as reduced production in fabric mills.  Industry leaders feared a loss of jobs would decrease demand but that is not at all what happened.  In fact, new orders escalated.  Many homeowners finally were home enough to look around and see the wear and tear of their houses, and without travel to drain disposable income, resolved to finally do some long-delayed interior design projects.  Couple that with the  shortages and you have a problem.

Photo: Rebecca McAlpin

 

Finding Raw Materials is a Challenge

Furniture makers and builders alike are vying for a limited supply of both lumber and metal.  Because furniture makers use specific hardwoods, they are unable to use substitutes for these raw materials without compromising quality.  Even foam used for cushions is being rationed thanks to a weather event in the Gulf Coast stalling the production of the necessary chemicals. If intricate metal elements are needed, they are most likely being manufactured in Asia, which will then require containers for shipping that are also in short supply due to the uptick in online shopping here in the U.S.  We learned from our friends at a local plumbing-supply showroom that the acrylic used to make bathtubs was redirected towards PPE, creating delays for just about every bathroom interior design project we’ve been working on.  The domino effect is far reaching.

Industry wide Delays Bathroom

Photo by: Kyle Born

 

Labor Shortages

As in many industries, the pandemic has greatly reduced our most valuable resource, labor.  Illness, exposure to the virus or a need for childcare are just a few of the reasons that skilled laborers are missing from the workforce.  To properly train new employees in the techniques necessary to fuel production could potentially take years.  There is just no rushing this step in the process.

 

How We Adapt

So, how to pivot, when facing these obstacles?  It is true what they say, patience is indeed a virtue.  For homeowners who can wait to begin their interior design projects, there will be advantages because lumber prices may fall and designers and contractors may become more available.

For those clients already working with us on their interiors, we are in frequent communication and often the topic centers around lead times that are startlingly long.   Homeowners are starting to recognize that if they want to stay on a certain schedule, it may involve more design revisions on our end because the item originally picked becomes unexpectedly delayed or unavailable.   We are always happy to revise our proposals to respond to these constraints, but this condition can drive up design fees and extend project timelines while also pushing back the start date for those potential customers who have already been patiently waiting.  We are grateful for the patience and flexibility so many have shown.

One more way to adapt: embrace reuse!   That’s a core principle of sustainability, and helps you avoid delays because you’ve already got the furniture piece and all you’re looking to do is repurpose or give it new life.

Photo: Rebecca McAlpin

 

What challenges have you encountered with your renovation or design project due to the pandemic?  How did you personally navigate these delays?  Please share with us in the comments below.

To read more on what’s happening with the home design industry, check out this helpful reference: