These are tough times to find ‘good’ numbers

Jerry Epperson — Furniture Today

Do you like numbers? Let’s face it, some are better than others. These are tough times to find “good” numbers.

In their most recent quarters, the average revenue decline for the U.S. publicly held furniture manufacturers and importers was 31.1% while mattress manufacturers averaged a 20.8% drop and the foreign public companies’ decline was 15.0%.

In the June quarter, domestic wood furniture shipments declined 26.6% while wood imports fell 22.8%. Among the eight largest import sources, Vietnam did the best, off only 5.7%, and Canada did the worst, down 51.9%. Our largest source, China, declined 25.6%.

Domestic upholstery fell less severely, “only” 16.2% in the June quarter versus last year, while imports were off 15.5%. China, again the largest source, was off 7.9%, while Mexico, Italy and Canada nose-dived 35.0%, 46.0% and 54.4%, respectively. Imported cut-and-sewn fabric covers grew 5.9% in the quarter.

Using our methodology to calculate market share, imports represented 69.6% of all residential wood furniture sold in the United States in the June quarter. Upholstery imports were 30.3% of all the upholstery sold with leather upholstery being over half of the total.

Mattresses are doing better, or less horrible, if you will. In the June quarter, domestic mattresses dropped 15.8% while imported ones fell 13.9%. Imported mattresses were only 4.1% of the mattresses sold in the U.S. in the second quarter.

Given all these declines among the public companies, in the domestic manufacturers and the importers, the government reports that retail purchases of furniture and mattresses fell 10.5%.

In our opinion, a more accurate number for the retail sales of our products in the June quarter would be a decline of 18% to 20%.

Speaking of retail numbers, the Bureau of Economic Analysis recently restated its consumer expenditure series, not by a little bit, but a bunch. Its restated statistical series shows that we sold $92.9 billion of furniture and mattresses to American consumers in 2008, a 14.4% higher number than the $81.1 billion they reported earlier.

I wish we could find that additional $11.7 billion today. We could really use it.

Author Information 

W.W. “Jerry” Epperson Jr. is a managing director of Mann, Armistead & Epperson Ltd., 119 Shockoe Slip, Richmond, Va., an investment banking and research company that specializes in the furniture sector. Online at

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