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Imports growing again after short stall in 2011

February 25, 2013

"Made in America" is a theme being heard more often in many industries. A recent Internet article discussed high-end Karges Furniture in Indiana that recently exported its first container to China.

Unfortunately, at least in the domestic wood furniture segment of our business, there has been a wave of bad news recently with Henkel Harris, Lincolnton Furniture and Linwood all closing their factories.

Recent import and domestic shipment numbers reflect this trend. After a pause in 2011 when wood and upholstered furniture imports did not gain share in the U.S., the imports began to grow again in 2012.

In the third quarter of 2012, the most recent available, wood furniture imports grew 6.8% while domestic shipments dropped 3.2%. By our measure, imports are now 73.9% of all wood residential furniture sold in the U.S., up from 71.5% a year earlier. China, which brought in 43.7% of all wood furniture imports in the third quarter, grew 4.7%. Vietnam, with 19.4% of wood imports, grew 21.2%.

Canada was up 3.8%, Malaysia up 8.4% and Indonesia up 5.3%. For the first nine months of 2012, wood furniture imports grew 5.9% while domestic shipments declined a modest 1.4%.

In upholstered furniture, both domestic and imports grew in last year's third quarter, with domestic shipments up 1.9% and imports up 10.5%. For the first nine months, domestic upholstered furniture grew 3.1% while imports gained 14.9%.

China made 75.2% of all imported upholstered furniture in the third quarter of 2012 with a year-to-year quarterly growth of 11.5%. Other source countries also had gains for the quarter like Mexico up 12.9%, Vietnam up 34.4% and Canada up 1.8%. These three nations in total sourced 15% of our upholstered furniture imports in the third quarter.

Our calculations show that imports accounted for 42.8% of all upholstered furniture sold in the U.S. during the third quarter of 2012. That percentage would be higher for leather furniture and lower for fabric.

Imports have not been important in the mattress sector historically, but after being only 1.2% of the U.S. market in 2002, imported mattresses were 6.1% in 2012's third quarter. Imported mattresses grew 22.8% in the third quarter while domestic shipments grew an impressive 12.7%. Chinese-sourced mattresses grew 19.9% and those from Mexico gained 20.4%.

Total retail sales of residential furniture and mattresses grew an impressive 6.4% in last year's third quarter and were up 6.7% in the first nine months of 2012. This is clearly our best gain in the post-recession period.

Let's hope decent retail gains continue!