NILES, Ohio – After two eventful years, Dan Morgan, owner of Morgan furniture and mattresses in Niles, says the industry is starting to find its footing. Now the biggest challenge, he says, is the economy.
“They are pressed for gas. They’re pressed for food,” Morgan says of her clients.
“The money they would have used to buy my products is being eaten up by the effects of inflation.”
Morgan says the bottom 25% of its customers can no longer afford to buy its products. The top 75% continue to shop, albeit cautiously.
“They can still afford these things, even if they are affected. But with every gas jump, everything stops,” says Morgan.
Morgan has been in the furniture industry all her life. He started helping his father and grandfather in their shops when he was 8 years old.
“I’ve literally held every position in a furniture company,” Morgan says.
The family business, Smith & Phillips, operated stores in Canton, Marietta and East Liverpool. Morgan worked for his father at the East Liverpool site for 11 years before it closed following the closure of the Crucible Steel plant in nearby Midland, Pennsylvania. “Our clientele just fell off a cliff,” he says.
Smith & Phillips then closed and Morgan took a job at Goldstein’s Furniture before opening her first store at Wedgewood Plaza in Austintown in 1996.
To get that store off the ground, Morgan says he worked 90 hours a week. Three years later, the store moved to Austintown Plaza.
In 2005, Morgan purchased and moved into its current location, a 22,500 square foot building at 6001 Youngstown Warren Road that was once a La-Z-Boy furniture store.
In addition to the store and showroom, Morgan also owns a 30,000 square foot warehouse and distribution center in Girard.
Morgan Furniture employs 15 people, including sales, warehouse and delivery staff.
“We want to maintain that personal contact,” Morgan says.
Like many businesses, the furniture industry was heavily disrupted during the pandemic “because most manufacturers were sourcing from all over the world”.
One problem came with the kits that many manufacturers use to build their furniture. The kits contain all the materials needed to build a piece of furniture and usually come from abroad.
“They order 10,000, put them in a container, bring them in, and put them on a shelf so they have them when they need them,” says Morgan.
“When everything went crazy with the containers, it became very, very difficult to get these kits.”
To make sure they could get new products, Morgan says big companies started placing “fake” orders so a delivery truck would arrive every week.
“And then when it came time for those trucks to come, they just canceled them,” he says. “It wreaked havoc on the whole industry.”
In February 2021, a winter storm in Texas caused massive power outages and further disrupted furniture manufacturing.
“It’s affected the foam industry,” which depends on the Gulf Coast petrochemical industry, Morgan says.
“It shut them all down, so there was no production in the upholstery industry. All the dominoes were falling.
Due to the lack of drivers and trailers, Morgan had to start buying full truckloads, which means the delivery truck brings all of its cargo to one location instead of delivering items from each cargo to multiple stores. .
While all of this was going on, demand for products was exploding, Morgan says.
“I probably could have done four times the business if I had been able to get the product. It was amazing.”
Morgan’s wife, Diane, chose a different adjective.
“It was crazy,” she says.
Demand was so great that Diane quit her job in the health care industry to work at the store. Now, the Morgans say, the industry is slowly returning to normal.
Before COVID, custom order selections at Morgan Furniture could be made and delivered in 30 days, Morgan says.
“It currently takes about 15 weeks,” says Morgan. “That’s down from 25 weeks. So it’s getting better. »
Items that were previously unavailable until next year are now having their delivery dates pushed back until the end of 2022.
Diane says the sales staff got so used to the craziness that they found it hard to get back to the normal pace of work.
“We need to remind our salespeople, ‘Remember, summer is our slow time,'” she says.
Yet the one aspect of the industry that hasn’t returned to normal, Dan says, is the cost of the product.
As an example, he recalls a container of recliners he bought in 2008 for $2,500.
“Today, that same container would cost $25,000. The same number of recliners fit in this container,” says Morgan.
“That’s another reason to shorten the supply chain.”
While some products and materials must come from overseas, Morgan says they are working hard to do as much business with American companies as possible.
The store serves customers within a 75 mile radius.
Morgan says he’ll be getting into e-commerce in the coming years, but says he has no interest in selling outside of his current territory.
“I don’t want a consumer in Iowa to have a problem that I can’t deal with,” he says.
And taking care of customers to make sure they choose the right furniture and have no problems once they get home is what local stores do better than big chain stores , says Morgan.
“The customer can come here and talk to me,” he says. “My distribution center is here in town.”
Plus, says Morgan, being small and local allows Morgan Furniture to be flexible when it comes to helping customers.
If they need help removing old furniture from their home, Morgan’s delivery team will be happy to help. If an injury means someone suddenly needs a chairlift, Morgan can find a way to get it to them quickly, he says.
“That’s what makes coming here a better proposition for the customer,” he says. “And frankly, we’re generally less money.”
Top of the photo: As a young boy, Dan Morgan helped his grandfather and father in their furniture shops. Now he has his.
Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.