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How Small Dealers Have Been Impacted By Imports

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The whole dynamic of the furniture industry appears to have changed right at the turn of the millennium. Starting with the basics—materials. Since 2000, domestic consumption of hardwood in the U.S. has gradually decreased. The demand for raw wood suddenly dropped off. The wood there was no longer a need for was exported, at first to Canada. Since 2000, however, China, Vietnam, and other East Asian countries have become the most demanding markets for the lumber. 

Yet at this same time, specifically in 2001, China became the most important source of wood furniture imports to the U.S. Vietnam, not surprisingly, is a close second. So this means we are sending wood overseas where they make it into furniture; then, we pay to import the finished product. Sounds like a lot of traveling expenses, not to mention the consumption of resources. 

This change of the wind was not without impact on the American furniture industry, particularly small dealers. In 1999, employment in furniture-making and related industries was 537,000 workers. By 2010, this number had dropped to 210,000. Slashed by half in little more than a decade. While it is true that interest in the fields of trade also declined in this era, it is pretty clear that, based on the other factors, there was a marked decrease in the need for skilled carpenters (and their products) at the time. The smaller businesses suffered more because they were less prepared to bear the brunt of the impact. 

There is hope, however. Just like trends, economics, and life in general, business has a good share of ups and downs. New generations sweep in and do things differently. The teenagers of the year 2000 are all grown up, buying their own style of furniture today. There is a much higher demand now for artisanal, hand-made furniture than there was even just a few years ago. It’s the type of furniture that has character and personality. We are also seeing a resurgence of support for local companies and communities. The numbers will sway the other way in time. We only have to wait for it.

We are happy to help our clients with high-quality furniture.




 

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