Still waiting on that couch you ordered back in January? Delayed furniture delivery times are occurring across the U.S. due to production backlogs and inventory shortages for one essential material: foam.
The shortage reportedly began in February when a winter storm shut down all five U.S. plants (four in Texas and one in Louisiana). These plants are essential, as they produce the main chemical (propylene oxide) needed to make foam. The furniture industry isn’t the only thing being affected by this shortage though as mattresses, automobiles, boats, appliances, building construction, and the steelmaking industry have all been negatively impacted.
What is foam?
This material is a petroleum-based product used to create a soft and absorbent material used in a wide variety of products. It’s commonly used to cushion the seats of cars, added as insulation in homes, and is a common material for mattresses.
Though the plants were closed for several days, it ended up taking a few weeks for them to get back up and running. Jerry Epperson, managing director of Mann, Armistead & Epperson—an investment bank for the furniture industry—and EverChem Specialty Chemicals told USA Today that this was due to plants running at 120% capacity to meet strong consumer demand when storm-related power outages and flooding knocked them out abruptly, ultimately damaging equipment.
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A serious backlog was also generated from this as demand for new furniture, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown. Even though production has started back up, foam plants are still struggling to keep up with demand.
“We really couldn’t catch up,” Epperson told USA Today.
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