Furniture Lead Times: Why The Wait?

The furniture purchase process has several steps and long lead times. Read why customization, globalization and the size of the industry make a difference in these furniture shipping delays here!

September 1, 2022

Have you ever been part of the furniture purchase process for an office and been told after hours, days and perhaps weeks of work the furniture items you have spent so much time on will not be delivered for 12 weeks? How is that even possible in today’s world when you can get just about anything delivered to your door tomorrow? Why are commercial furniture lead times so long? 

There are a lot of great people working in the industry to speed up the process and we at __________ hope to be part of that solution. In the meantime, here is an explanation in simple terms why furniture lead times are long and a list of the steps in the traditional office furniture process and what to expect for lead times. 

Lead times in the industry are long for the following main reasons:

  1. Customization – Do you know that a major furniture manufacturer has more than 5 billion individual items in its catalog. Most projects are made by using 3-5 manufactures which means there could be quadrillions of combinations possible in a single project.  By comparison Costco has only a few thousand items to choose from. The ability for each organization to personalize with a custom fabric, size or laminate finish means the manufacturers can’t make items to stock for quick shipping. Almost everything is made to order. 
  2. Globalization – even manufacturers in North America get most of their parts and raw materials from other countries like Mexico, Canada and China. When there are delays in shipping due to weather politics or pandemics, that all can cause long lead times and delays.
  3. Industry size – the entire commercial furniture interiors industry is under 20 billion dollars in the United States. By comparison, in 2019 WeWork, a single potential customer in the shared work space was worth 25 billion dollars. This means cost and time saving technology which has impacted the consumer good experience across industries has taken time to trickle down to office furniture purchase experience. The inherent and sometimes by design complications in the industry have insulated it from change and disruption up until now. 

Here are the behind-the-scenes steps on what happens when an order is placed at a traditional furniture dealership. Of course this all assumes there are no parts backorders or shipping delays.

  1. Signed order received. 
  2. Deposit received via ACH or Check – Nothing is done by your dealer until this happens – day 0
  3. Dealership team double checks the order for accuracy – day 1-3
  4. Order is sent to manufacturer and placed in acknowledgement que – day 4-7
  5. Order is checked by manufactuer, officially acknowledged and put into production que – your quoted lead time actually starts now – day 7-10
  6. Acknowledgment sent to dealer and delievery date set to be communicated to you the end user – Day 11-14
  7. Production que – 4-5 weeks
  8. Manufacturing and order consolidations – week 6-8
  9. Shipping – week 9-10
  10. Order receipt and double check at dealership – Week 11
  11. Delivery and installation starts – week 12

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