The state of the nation's supply chain can be summed up in four words: Hurry up and wait. From microchips to potato chips, canned goods to paper goods, products that are traditionally easy to find are suddenly nowhere to be found. This includes household furniture, forcing not-so-patient buyers to stand or sit on the floor while they await their next couch, love seat or La-Z-Boy. Buyers are being told that they may have to wait until 2022 rolls around for their sofas, dining chairs and ottomans to arrive curbside.

While there are a variety of reasons for these delivery delays, the biggest of them all has to do with where those items come from.

According to data from the Department of Commerce obtained by CNN, the United States gets a substantial amount of its furniture from Vietnam. The island nation competes with China and Bangladesh as the U.S.' single-largest supplier of furniture.

Lockdown lifted Oct. 1
While most countries have emerged from the lockdown measures created by governments as a reaction to the COVID-19 crisis, Vietnam lifted restrictions as recently as Oct. 1. This means businesses that would normally be functioning and producing the items and furniture suppliers ship to the States are way behind on order fulfillment.

"Vietnam's economy actually grew in 2020, up nearly 3% from 2019."

This wasn't the case early on. In fact, according to the International Monetary Fund, unlike many other nations, Vietnam's economy actually grew in 2020, up nearly 3% from 2019. But when the country experienced a surge in infections, many factories closed in response to contain the threat and the government reimposed a lockdown that lasted for several months.

Mark Schumacher, CEO of the Home Furnishings Association, told CNN in July that it will take quite a while for Vietnam's furniture industry to get back up to speed.

"In many cases, customers who are ordering furniture now are being told it can take nine months to a year for delivery," Schumacher said. And this was in July, when the lockdown remained in effect. 

Ports remain in disarray
Another contributing factor is how many people in Vietnam have left their homes. Estimates from state media indicate at least 90,000 people left Ho Chi Minh City since early October to seek out employment opportunities elsewhere, Reuters reported. This means furniture manufacturers and employers have fewer individuals who will be able to resume work or apply for open positions. This also poses an issue for Vietnam's economy, as furniture is the nation's top export.

Compounding the problem further is what's happening at shipping ports, domestically and abroad. Numerous ships remain at sea, unable to offload their cargo for awaiting truck drivers. Things haven't been much better in Vietnam. Hariesh Manaadiar, director of market and data intelligence at Project44, told Supply Chain Dive that container dwell times have risen consistently since August, adding that the congestion is almost entirely due to the COVID-19 lockdowns in Vietnam.

Business owners in the United States that rely on foreign exports — furniture or otherwise — must work collaboratively to overcome these logistical challenges and inform customers about the backups so they know what to expect.

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