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Katrina, Rita, Still Blasting the Furniture Industry

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It wasn’t just New Orleans that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita flattened. Their destructive winds blew down walls in one of the most traditional of industries. Furniture makers from coast to coast, top to bottom, are suffering through the most dramatic disruption in foam supplies and prices ever to hit the industry. Blaine Wieland, a fourth-generation veteran of the industry, tells how big furniture companies can’t obtain some grades of polyurethane foam at any price. He explains, “We lost chemical ingredients suppliers, and the processing plants that make the key components of polyurethane foam had to go offline during the hurricane. Believe it or not, it looks like there is going to be a sofa shortage! Who could ever have seen this coming?” Meanwhile, even when foam suppliers can ship, they're demanding price increases of 60%. “Furniture companies are just glad to get supplies, and let the price be damned. That seems to be the reaction,” Wieland explains. “Then they are left with trying to recoup their losses by raising their own prices on sofas and couches and surcharging on delivery to offset rising gas prices. It’s our own little version of the perfect storm.” How will this all turn out? Wieland isn’t sure of the timeline, but he suggests that when furniture prices rise, demand for the products will slacken. That, combined with bringing the chemical component plants back online, should increase supplies and drop prices. “Then we can downgrade this event to a tropical depression and begin to rebuild,” he says. Blaine Wieland is the president of Home Reserve, a web-based manufacturer and seller of economically-priced sofas, loveseats, chairs, and ottomans. Home Reserve's Web address is www.homereserve.com.

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