Need a new sofa, recliner or desk for that home office? Prepare to be patient

  • Norm Davis, general manager at Cheney’s Apple Hill Furniture in Penacook, looks over the small selection of desks on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Norm Davis, general manager at Cheney’s Apple Hill Furniture in Penacook, looks at one of the few computer tables available on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 9/14/2020 2:33:35 PM

The pandemic’s shutdown orders mean we’ve been spending a lot more time at home. Do we like what we see? Ask the people who sell furniture.

“How I explain it is: When you take Americans and you stick them in their houses for a couple of months and they’re sitting on their old furniture, and they don’t want to go out to eat, don’t want to go out to bars because they don’t want to take a risk, that gives them a little extra money. So they want to buy new furniture,” said Norm Davis, general manager at Cheney’s Apple Hill Furniture in Penacook.

Davis said his store, like many in the industry, was hit by a wave of customers when it was allowed to reopen in June.

“I’ve never seen this,” said Davis, who has been in the business 35 years. “Business is crazy good.”

Endicott Furniture on South Main Street was also swamped when the shutdown ended.

“In June we reopened and sold a ton of stuff right off the floor because people needed it quickly,” said Eric Reingold, fourth-generation owner of Endicott Furniture. The store has been in the same spot since the 1940s, when it moved across the street from the Endicott Building, where it was founded in 1925.

One spur for these sales is the need to do school or office work from home.

“Office furniture has increased. It was kind of on a downward trend – everybody has iPads, things where you can do work without an office – but now that people are working from home, our desks are sold off the floor,” Reingold said.

This is not, of course, limited to Concord. The analytics firm Profitero reported that searches on Amazon for “desk” rose 600% from mid-July through mid-August, while “computer desk” rose 257% and “kids desk” rose a mind-boggling 3,783%.

“Home office has become very popular,” agreed Davis. “People buy media tables for desks, they’ll use anything that has a big enough writing surface, to get their kids away from the kitchen table, provide separation.”

But there’s a problem, one that a number of industries are facing: Pandemic-fueled demand exceeds pandemic-constrained supply.

“Manufacturers can’t keep up,” said Davis who, like most furniture stores, deals with many manufacturers both in the U.S. and overseas. “We’ve got companies that are 21 days (to delivery) that are now 8 to 10 weeks. If it was 4 to 6 weeks, now it’s 16 to 20.”

He noted that COVID-19 shut warehouses and factories just the way it shut stores, creating a backlog of orders. Requirements for operating in a pandemic compound the problem.

“If you have a million-square-foot warehouse and you have to social distance, keeping six feet away from everything, you can’t build a five-million-square-foot warehouse overnight,” he said.

“You just have to be honest and tell the customers it’s going to take a while.”

Not only have sales increased but customers have changed.

“There’s not a lot of people strolling in off the street and taking a look around. People are coming in, knowing that they want to buy,” Reingold said. As for online sales, they don’t work too well for sofas and stuffed chairs, which are the bulk of their business.

“I’m very hesitant to sell somebody a sofa over the phone. I say: Come in and try it. I’ll make sure it has been cleaned,” he said.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)


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