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What exact information does someone need to get when they see furniture they want to buy in a store, but want to order it directly from North Carolina?

By Jeff Frank

Ordering furniture “directly” from North Carolina is unlikely to result in significant cost savings.

Once upon a time, 40 years ago, there were thousands of discount furniture dealers in North Carolina.

There were also hundreds and hundreds of furniture manufacturers.

That is no longer the case.

  • In the late 1970s I once counted nearly 300 furniture stores along a 20 mile stretch of Highway 321 between Hickory and Lenoir, NC.
    • Thousands of other furniture stores were located between Hickory and High Point, NC and surrounding areas.
    • Today more than 90% are gone.

    Up until the 1980s North Carolina’s “discount” outlets often did have better pricing than local brick and mortar stores on the most expensive North Carolina brands.

    • Lower priced brands also sold well through these discount dealers, even though the savings were far less.
    • These small North Carolina discounters had very little overhead and were willing to work with smaller profit margins than brick and mortar stores located in areas with higher costs.
      • Often they had only a small showroom, with 90% of sales (or more) coming over the telephone. (This was before the internet.)
      • Small discount retailers arranged for furniture to be shipped direct from the manufacturer to their customer using common carriers.
      • Larger discounters owned their own truck fleets.
        • Furniture was picked up from local manufacturers, brought into the dealer’s warehouse and then shipped to customers’ homes.

        Until 1980 hundreds of furniture manufacturers, located in or near North Carolina, sold substantial quantities of their furniture through these discount dealerships.

        Beginning in 1980, however, things began to change.

        • A Recession that lasted from 1980 – 1982, drastically hurt furniture sales nationwide.
          • Small furniture manufacturers and retailers were especially vulnerable.
        • At the same time, large furniture manufacturers were beginning to discover that their furniture could be produced in China at much lower prices.
        • Major furniture manufacturers, under pressure from their larger customers, began refusing to sell to any retailer who did not have a showroom and would not “stock” their products.

        By 2010 over 90% of all U.S. wood furniture manufacturers had moved overseas or closed down.

        Meanwhile, Recessions and financial crises in the 1980s and 1990s devastated smaller furniture retailers.

        • In 1980 the 100 largest U.S. furniture retailers accounted for less than 10% of nationwide furniture sales.
        • In 2019 the 100 largest U.S. furniture retailers control more than 50% of nationwide sales.
        • Very few small and mid-size independent furniture retailers still exist. Most have shut down or been bought out by the larger chains.

        Very few major discounters still exist, except for discontinued or overstocked items.

        Furniture retailers have become very adept at creating fictitious “comparative pricing” from which they can show deep discounts while still selling at hefty profit margins.

        Rather than restricting your furniture shopping to “North Carolina discounters,” you will do far better to simply find something you like and then use the internet to find the best price.

        All you need is the brand name and the model number or name.

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