In the battle for top furniture exporter to the U.S., which country has the edge?

Date: Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Source: Furniture Today

HIGH POINT — Vietnam’s hold as the top furniture exporter to the U.S. is a tenuous one at best, with just $2.5 million separating it from rival China based on activity in the first six months of 2022.

While Vietnam grew its share by just 1% to $5.177.5 billion in the first six months of 2022, China significantly closed the gap with a 13% increase in exports to the United States for the same period, reaching $5.175 billion.

Companies that shifted business from China to Vietnam to avoid tariffs began re-establishing business ties in 2021 as Vietnam grappled with factory closings associated with the COVID-19 variants in the second half of the year.

Malaysia, another country that benefitted from the move away from China, ceded its No. 3 spot on the list to Mexico. After experiencing a 62% increase as an importer to the United States in the first half of 2021, Malaysia managed to increase business by only 1% over the same period this year, securing about $879 million in exports.

Mexico, meanwhile, was the leader in percentage growth among the Top 10, increasing exports to the U.S. market by 41%, and putting it above the $1 billion mark. Mexico’s gains came largely from a move to nearshoring as container prices soared for a period amidst the ongoing supply chain woes.

However, the value of producing in Mexico and trucking product into the United States has been called in question of late, as ocean freight rates fall and labor issues make ground transportation more difficult. Thus, Mexico’s major gains over the past year may be headed for a slowdown.

Two European countries within the Top 10 — No. 7 Italy and No. 10 Poland — made noteworthy overtures with U.S. buyers during the recent High Point Market as they sought to gain prominence.

Although Italy is already well-established in the United States, exporting more than $700 million in household furniture in the first six months of the year, some smaller companies from the Puglia region, including four showcasing upholstery, were hoping to begin building their brand identity and making the necessary business connections by coming to High Point for the first time.

Likewise, Poland, which exported more than $198 million in furniture to the United States in early 2022, took a showroom at High Point Market featuring six companies presenting everything from flat-pack furniture to upholstery to one-of-a-kind handcrafted wood tables.

Furniture-hungry retailers, who pushed the world total for furniture imports to more than $15 billion over the first six months of 2021 — a 55% increase — now find themselves with plenty of inventory and have moderated demand with the total rising a more modest 13% from January to June to around $17 billion.

Within the categories of products coming into the U.S. market, miscellaneous wood furniture remained the No. 1 item, accounting for more than $3.6 billion of total imports. The fastest-growing categories for the period of January to June were metal frame upholstered seats, up 31% to $935 million, and wood kitchen furniture, up 39% to nearly $1.5 billion.

U.S. exports level off

After an explosive beginning in the first half of 2021, the U.S. furniture export market has pulled back, growing by just 5% for between January and June 2022 to about $1.2 billion vs. a 40% increase over the same period in 2021 to $1.15 billion.

Three countries — Germany, China and Saudi Arabia — imported less this year than in the same period last year. Most notable among them is Germany, which in 2021 had brought in $13 million in product from U.S. furniture manufacturers — a 53% increase — and this year dropped that amount by 6% to $12.2 million. With this decrease, Germany fell to No. 8 from No. 6 on the Top 10 list.

The United Kingdom, meanwhile, significantly upped its imports from the United States, going from $18.5 million in the first half of 2021 to $32.1 million in 2022, a 74% increase.

This keeps the U.K. squarely in third place on the top household furniture buyers list, following Canada and Mexico, both of which increased business by double-digit percentages as well.


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