China Furniture Tariffs to Adversely Affect Consumers

With the impact of tariffs top of mind, The International Home Furnishing Representatives Association (IHFRA) asked Leflein Associates, Inc., a leading market research firm, to field a survey among IHFRA members in order to gauge their perceptions of how current and future tariffs might impact the landscape of the home furnishings sector.

Based on input from close to 340 IHFRA members, who represent independent sales representatives, suppliers, retailers and other active in the home furnishings sector, more than 40% of the respondents believe that tariffs will cause furniture suppliers to shift production to countries other than China.

Some 35% of the respondents are also predicting that manufacturers will have to adjust pricing as a result.

And when the question was asked about who would ultimately foot the bill should higher priced furniture emerge as a result of the tariffs, over half of the survey respondents said the consumer would be one paying more for goods impacted by tariffs.

According to Ray Allegrezza, Executive Director for IHFRA, “This survey underscores the volatility the industry may be facing should higher tariffs come into play in coming weeks and months.”

The challenge for the industry, Allegrezza added, is that the issue of tariffs comes at a time when furniture sales, while reasonable, have not seemed to keep pace with a steadily improving economy.

And when that is coupled with the timing and focus of the impending tariffs, that could spell more trouble for the industry, Allegrezza suggest.

“As opposed to the earlier tariffs against Chinese imports, which took hold at the end of September and targeted some $200 billion at 10%, the impending tariffs, set for January 1, 2019, will come in at 25%,” he noted.

“But here is the rub,” Allegrezza explained. “While the earlier tariffs mostly hit materials, about 25% of the planned tariffs will target consumer goods directly, making the perceptions of our survey respondents right on the money,” he said.

Based on what Allegrezza sees ahead, sales of furniture, electronics, computers are all positioned to feel the brunt of higher prices.

What follows are the top line results of the Leflein survey:

 

If the tariffs on China furniture imports increase to 25%, what do you believe furniture manufacturers will do? (Select all that apply)

  • 44% of IHFRA members cite if the tariffs on China furniture imports increase to 25%, furniture manufacturers will move their production facilities to other countries
  • More than one-third (35%) believe manufacturers will adjust their pricing to compensate for the tariff.
  • Only one in ten (10%) believe manufacturers will build plants or expand facilities in the US

 

Who will be most impacted by furniture tariff increases? (Select One)

  • The majority of IHFRA members (51%) predict consumers will be the ones to experience the biggest impact by the furniture tariff increase. Here’s some explanations for why & how:

“Consumers don’t really understand the costs of furniture now. They always want the lowest price products unless they are of the top earners in their respective markets. Many of the top volume producing products are made in China. That much capacity cannot be reasonably spread to Vietnam, Malaysia, India, and Mexico. The logistics of shipping alone make that impossible. So, consumers will have to pay more of their money to get product in their home, even at the low end of the market.”

“Everyone will be impacted. I am a sales rep and I already feel the pinch as the stores are holding back buying or if they are still purchasing they are absorbing the 10% increase. I think that furniture will become a lower priority as everything in the whole country is going to increase 25%. Customers make the ultimate decision and come Jan- Fall.”

“Furniture is the first of the big ticket items to be affected by cost increases.  With no effective long term consumer financing, furniture is a cash sale 75% to 80% of the time.  The vast majority of sales thus are dependent on how much cash a consumer has available people don’t have the cash to afford the level of quality they desire.

  • Three in ten (29%) foresee manufacturers experiencing the most impact. Here’s some explanations for why & how:

“I think Manufacturers will bear the brunt of tariff increases because consumers can always shop other choices, reps can grab other lines, and retailers can adjust their assortment on their floor to create the best value for their customer. This is why Manufacturers will have to be agile and move some production, eat some of the tariff, and possibly look at expanding in the U.S.”

“The ones whose products are made mostly in China will be forced to move production to other countries. This will take time to get established. The most obvious choice is Vietnam which is much smaller and has much less capacity and fewer raw materials than China. All relative factors will drive costs up in Vietnam and create long lead times. It will be a trickle down affect impacting all parties involved but manufacturers will struggle for a long time and some will probably go out of business. For smaller manufacturers it will be like starting all over again which will be a real struggle considering the competition in the industry. Retailers and consumers will shop differently by selecting products not impacted by the tariffs. Overall for a while furniture sales will take a dip. The question is “How long will it take to recover?””

 

Which merchandise category is most affected by increases in tariffs? (Select One)

  • Two-fifths of IHFRA members (43%) cite case goods as the category most affected by increases in tariffs.
  • More than one-third (35%) believe upholstery will
  • Only one in ten (10%) believe accessories will be most affected, only 8% cite outdoor or bedding (4%) as being impacted most.

 

 

 

Which price point is likely to be least impacted by tariffs?

  • 67% of IHFRA members believe high end items will be least impacted.
  • 13% cite mid-range, and nearly two out of ten (19%) cite low end

Which manufacturers stand to benefit most from new business as a result of the new tariffs (Please name specific companies)

Top 5 companies mentioned (among those who mentioned a company):

Ashley 30%
Southern Motion 9%
Amish-made Furniture* 8%
Vaughan Bassett 6%
Catnapper/Jackson 6%

*represents Amish mentions in general, not a specific manufacturer

Will companies selling products not impacted by tariffs benefit?

  • Virtually all IHFRA members (96%) believe those companies not impacted by tariffs will benefit from sales increases.
    • While more than half of IHFRA members (54%) believe companies will benefit somewhat, two-fifths (43%) assume those companies not impacted will benefit a great deal.

If you are an independent rep, have your suppliers empowered you to answer your retailer’s questions about possible pricing changes as a result of tariff increases

  • Eighty-six percent of independent reps have been empowered by suppliers to answer questions from retailer’s regarding possible pricing changes.
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