Year of the Rabbit could be one of challenges and opportunity
It should come as no surprise when I tell you how ready I am to show 2022 the exit door.
The lingering impact of the pandemic not only disrupted business, at least for the time being, but also reversed it.
In what seemed like the blink of an eye, we went from having more consumer demand than product to an almost complete reversal.
And for those who believe the new year will wash away this year’s troubles, I have a cool bridge in Brooklyn that I can make you a sweetheart deal on.
Those of us in home furnishings get to celebrate (and possibly get clobbered by not one, but two) new year’s events—American New Year and Chinese New Year.
And from experience, depending upon your level of participation, both are capable of leaving the celebrant with one hell of a hangover.
While Chinese New Year has traditionally rattled the supply chain, because most all of China’s factories shut down for weeks to allow workers to reunite with their families, I am particularly worried about the upcoming Chinese New Year considering how unhinged the supply chain currently is thanks to the pandemic.
With our sector suffering to get turnaround times back to some semblance of predictability, the last thing we need is another major speed bump in the form of the Chinese New Year.
If you are wondering who will feel the impact, my answer is simple. Everyone.
Here at home, as just one example, domestic upholstery makers counting on Asian-produced cut-and-sew kits better plan on counting to 10, and then to 10 again.
Meanwhile, in China, once the Chinese New Year is done, smaller factories there looking for raw materials will undoubtedly be shoved aside by bigger factories.
For the record, Chinese New Year kicks off on Jan. 22, and before you ask, that happens to fall on the Year of the Rabbit, which I happen to find a bit ironic, all things considered.
Compared to other animals, the rabbit tends to be a mercurial but tender animal. People born in the Year of the Rabbit are said to exhibit personality traits best described as kind, softhearted and tender. They are said to be modest and to exhibit a pleasant aura to those around them. They avoid conflict and quarrel and are said to be slow to anger.
While I would love the Rabbit to show up reeking of kindness, tenderness and the like, I fear that ongoing price hikes, raw material shortages and generally lousy business may set the stage for the Year of the Hungry, Hungry Hippo, a big critter with a fat wallet and an even fatter appetite to cut to the head of the line, or lines for whatever it needs to grow.
Simply put, even in good times, when Asian factories close for a time, one can pretty much count on that resulting in logistical nightmares, product shortages, increase in pricing, and more.
Also keep in mind that while it is called Chinese New Year, this holiday also impacts production in Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and other neighboring manufacturing hubs.
With all of that said, when the clock begins to race toward midnight on Dec. 31, I hope you can raise your glass, prepare to kiss someone who matters and stand confident knowing that, while none of us know what 2023 will bring, you have prepared to the best of your ability to look the new year in the eye.
One thing I feel confident in saying is this — keep your eye on Asia, at least for the first half of the year. I believe that the speed that this part of the world recovers will set the pace for recovery on our side of the pond.
It has been said that the Chinese word for crisis is made up of two characters that stand for danger and opportunity. True or not, the truth is that there are always counterintuitive people — they make moves and decisions that many of us might think were daring.
If you’ve been reading the headlines, you’ve probably noticed lots of buzz about furniture retailers who, at a time when others are pulling in their horns, are taking a gamble and either opening new stores or expanding existing ones.
Recent headlines that come to mind include Iowa-based FurnitureMart USA completing a 300,000-square-foot addition; City Furniture opening a huge new store in Plant City, Florida; Jordan’s opening a second big store in Connecticut; 1915, owner and operator of Ashley Stores, opened a new location in Georgia; FDE, another owner and operator of Ashley stores, opened a new store in Connecticut; The Furniture Mall of Missouri just opened in a former Macy’s location in that state.
Worth noting, and to my mind, very encouraging, is that new mom-and-pop home furnishings stores, including Woven Home, based in Gulf Gate, Florida; The Rusty Relic, a small group of stores in Mystic, Connecticut; and HS Interiors, based in Missouri, are also taking the plunge.
New stores mean new opportunities. Some danger too, perhaps, but no risk, no reward, right? Here’s wishing you a new year full of new opportunities!