Logistics Logic

Powell Slaughter
I’m Powell Slaughter, senior editor at Furniture/Today. I returned to the publication in January 2015 after nine years of writing about furniture retail strategies and best practices at a monthly magazine focusing on home furnishings retail operations. Prior to that, I spent 10 years with F/T covering wood furniture, the last five of those as case goods editor. While I cover occasional, home entertainment and home office here, a major responsibility is expanding our attention to the logistics side of the industry. I hope this blog will encourage a dialogue with retailers, vendors, third-party logistics specialists and carriers. I’d love to hear your ideas, concerns and suggestions for smoother flow of material and goods.
  • Another private equity target?

    It’s been an interesting year regarding private equity investment in the furniture industry on both the vendor and retail sides of the business. This summer, for instance, Blackstone acquired showroom powerhouse International Market Centers. Thomas H. Lee Partners bought Top 100 retailer Art Van in March. Gainline Capital Partners snapped up motion upholstery vendor Southern Motion in July. Performance fabric major Crypton was acquired by Berkeley Partners in spring. Z Capital Partners landed electric fireplace and home furnishings resource Twin-Star. Theodore Alexander’s acquisition by Creative Home Furniture and Loulai Home Textiles purchase of Lexington Home Brands from longtime ... Read More
  • Trump gets busy: New administration has furniture industry’s attention

    It didn’t take President Donald J. Trump long to start putting into effect campaign promises made regarding regulation and international trade. We’re talking the new administration’s first week in the White House.When it comes to the furniture industry, many companies, especially those with domestic manufacturing operations, look forward to a friendlier regulatory environment. On the other hand, a stricter policy toward imports has a lot of businesses with global sourcing structures for home furnishings goods concerned about potential price increases for their products in the form of possible tariffs and duties. Week 1 of the Trump ... Read More
  • This Boomer’s take on Millennials

    I've always loved this time of year, and I'm sure I'm not alone. There are the holiday celebrations and festive atmosphere, the return of brilliant, clear winter sunsets, and the invigorating feeling – in early winter at any rate – of some cold weather. And like many, for me it's a time of reflection on the past and anticipation for the future as a new year looms. To that end, I've been thinking a lot lately about Millennials. You’ve heard it all, you might say, but when it comes to this industry's customer base of ... Read More
  • A look back, a look ahead

    Come Jan. 1, it will be two years since I “came home” to Furniture Today. One of my primary charges then was to deepen and widen FT’s coverage of the logistics side of our industry. There’s been a lot to consider – port congestion on the West Coast early last year, Hanjin’s bankruptcy and its effect on delivery times and rates this year, and the ongoing shortage of truck drivers that’s impacting carriers with a specialty in home furnishings. Those only added to the already complex process of supply chain management. At this point, I feel about ... Read More
  • How 'Hanjined' are you?

    It strikes me that the people handling logistical issues for furniture vendors and retailers have one of the "dirty" jobs in our industry. Showroom display, product development, marketing and sales? Those are what pass for glamour jobs in furniture, but without the efforts of those who actually get the goods from point A to point B, the rest is window dressing.The bankruptcy of ocean carrier Hanjin has to be giving a lot of those "rubber-meets-the-road" types a lot of headaches, and from what I'm hearing, it could impact some exhibitors at the upcoming High Point Market. The South ... Read More
  • A wake up call from Hanjin

    In the Sept. 12 issue of Furniture/Today, and moving forward, you’ll read in print and online at Furniture/Today about the near-desperate situation among ocean carriers moving the containers upon which furniture vendors and self-sourcing retailers depend. It’s no news that container lines have been dragging the bottom when it comes to the rates they charge, and Korean line Hanjin’s bankruptcy could be just the first shoe to drop under unsustainable pricing for ocean freight. The lines have been chasing volume, not profit, and no wonder. They’ve built capacity to a point where it’s ... Read More
  • Update: A major carrier in major trouble

    This week's edition of Furniture/Today carried a report on the challenges facing ocean carriers. Despite an assortment of alliances, vessel sharing agreements and other strategies among carriers, it's not enough to stop them from "bleeding money," as more than one source called it. Excess capacity and softening demand for their services are taking a toll and now are sending a top-10 carrier into bankruptcy. This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Korean shipping giant Hanjin has filed for receivership. Courts will decide whether Hanjin, a member of The Alliance, a seven-member group of ocean carriers formed ... Read More
  • The people who make High Point Market happen

    I got into an interesting conversation with an industry friend while attending a party at the String & Splinter Club during last month's High Point Market. He was talking about all the people who make High Point Market happen — not the buyers and vendors, but the folks guarding the cross walks, serving up food and drink, shining shoes, passing out marketing materials and publications, holding doors and greeting marketgoers at building entrances. My friend pointed out that so many of these people are at market year after year. By way of example, he called one of the servers by name ... Read More
  • Holistic Logistics

    Don’t let the headline fool you: I’m not going to go all “New Age” here. What I am going to do is give you an idea of how I and Furniture/Today hope to examine and address the topic of logistics in the furniture industry moving forward. The Merriam-Webster dictionary’s simple definition of holistic is “relating to or concerned with complete systems rather than with individual parts.” In the past year, we’ve stepped up our coverage of those “parts” of the logistical puzzle. A lot’s been going on — a slowdown at West Coast ports that ... Read More
  • Like it or not, truck driver shortage will impact retail logistics

    I'm going to beat a dead horse here. But I'd say it's worth beating if you're a furniture retailer. In our Nov. 16 issue, we reported on how the ongoing shortage of truck drivers is affecting the truckers who specialize in serving furniture retailers, both for delivery to their distribution centers and warehouses, and the fulfillment of the “final mile” to consumers’ homes. I very much hope that retailers, especially independents with small or no staff to monitor their logistics, are paying attention to this situation. If you’re a retailer, priority one is making your ... Read More
  • Unlocking Gridlock

    While the business community is happy to lay blame for problems importers faced with West Coast port gridlock squarely on the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the situation was more the landfall of a "perfect storm" that was years in the making. It will take more than signed labor contracts to avoid ongoing problems with congestion at U.S. ports. That was my takeaway from a white paper produced by American Shipper magazine, “Best Practices and Collaboration for Curbing Port Congestion.” The paper emerged from the Virginia Maritime Assn.’s annual International Trade Symposium in May, which for the first ... Read More
  • Reflections on 10 years of Las Vegas Market

    Downtown Las Vegas is a world of its own, for sure. This was the second furniture market in a row here that I've stayed at the Plaza, overlooking the west end of the "Fremont Street Experience," and at this summer's show, my room had a view directly down the pedestrian thoroughfare. While lying in bed at 1 a.m. the night after opening day listening to the dulcet tones of a band I’m told is named “Spandex Nation” scream its way through covers of songs from Guns ’n Roses, Poison and such, I had plenty of time ... Read More