Furniture Delivery Delays? Designers Find A Way
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Furniture Delivery Delays? Designers Find A Way

Couches, upholstered beds, rugs and light fixtures can take up to a year to arrive.

Wed, Oct 27, 2021 11:57amGrey Clock 4 min
MY MOTHER, who was not known for her patience, once waited for nine months for an armless rocking chair upholstered in a custom green velvet stripe. Long waits were common in the 1960s. A wait of nine months was long even for the 1960s. She complained to the furniture store, which blamed the factory, which said actually it was the shipper’s fault.

“I’ve had babies in less time than it took for me to get this damn chair,” my mother observed to my father, who knew better than to engage.

For everyone waiting for furniture delivery these days, it feels like the 1960s all over again. Thanks to the pandemic, the supply chain has been tangled up in knots over the past year and a half—and it has become routine to wait for many months for furnishings.

“Two-thirds of all goods trying to come into this country are coming in really late,” said furniture industry analyst Ray Allegrezza, executive director of the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association in High Point, N.C. “I’ve never seen anything this crazy—and it’s not going to get better any time soon.”

Custom fabric would add up to 10 weeks to this sofa’s production, said designer Michelle Gage.

Of course, far worse things happened during the pandemic. “It’s just furniture,” said Ali Budd, an interior designer in Toronto. “That’s what I remind people.”

Ms. Budd said that even getting the simplest things is a challenge. “Getting a stone slab right now is like the Wild West. You show up and have to be ready to buy if you don’t want to lose the slab,” she said. “Everything is selling and people won’t hold things, sometimes not even for 24 hours.”

Why is the home décor industry being hit so hard by supply chain problems?

Home Furnishing Pros Explain

“It was a perfect storm,” Mr. Allegrezza explained. “There’s a higher-than-normal demand for home goods because everybody who was forced to stay in place during the pandemic realized they hated their sofas. Meanwhile the companies in Asia that make furniture had shutdowns. Ports everywhere are clogged, so ships can’t find a spot to unload, and when they finally do, there aren’t enough crane operators to unload the containers. Also, the trucking industry has a shortage of drivers, because a lot of them decided to retire in recent months.”

Worsening the perfect storm was actual bad weather. Winter 2021 storms in Texas and Louisiana shut down two major factories that manufacture chemicals used to make foam padding for sofas and chairs. “The delays are so bad that I had a client recently who needed a bed for a guest room, and I said, ‘Maybe don’t get an upholstered bed,’” said Michelle Gage, an interior designer in Philadelphia.

Manufacturers and retailers say it’s difficult to predict when furnishings will be delivered. “We have a container of rugs coming from Morocco that was delayed for weeks in Barcelona—with no real explanation—so we gave all the customers who purchased them a 10% discount to try to assuage the anger,” said Ben Hyman, chief executive of Revival Rugs in Oakland, Calif.

“We had 200 or 300 customers waiting for a woven-wire chandelier that was shipping from India and was expected in four to five months,” said Brownlee Currey, chief executive of Currey & Company in Atlanta. “It ended up being nine or 10 months. We kept ordering more meanwhile, and when they finally sent them, we got an enormous shipment.”

What America's Supply-Chain Backlog Looks Like Up Close

What America’s Supply-Chain Backlog Looks Like Up Close California’s Port of Los Angeles is struggling to keep up with the crush of cargo containers arriving at its terminals, creating one of the biggest choke points in the global supply-chain crisis. This exclusive aerial video illustrates the scope of the problem and the complexities of this process. Photo: Thomas C. Miller

The bad news is that the situation isn’t going to get better soon: “The pundits are saying maybe 2023,” Mr. Allegrezza said.

The good news? Interior designers are coming up with creative workarounds.

How to Sidestep Shipping Delays

“I’m getting more things custom made by local craftsmen—things like small side tables and upholstery pieces—because then you don’t have to worry about shipping,” said Courtney Sempliner, an interior designer in Port Washington, N.Y., who I phoned for advice. “We’re fortunate to have a lot of local mom-and-pop craftsmen in Brooklyn, Queens and upstate.”

“Who are some of your favourite go-to suppliers?” I asked.

“Sorry, I can’t share my sources—it’s too dangerous, because I don’t want them to be overwhelmed,” Ms. Sempliner said. “But here are other tips: Buy floor samples from showrooms. Or reupholster something you already own—the wait time is much shorter.”

Ms. Gage, the interior designer in Philadelphia, said a quick way to shave off weeks of wait time is to eschew custom fabrics. “Where in the past we might have picked a custom fabric for a sofa and waited for the fabric to get shipped from the manufacturer, now we choose a stock fabric for a sofa,” she said.

Other strategies: If you are shopping online and see that an item you want is in stock, “order it immediately. Don’t want until the next day, because who knows if it still will be available,” said Ms. Budd, the interior designer in Toronto.

One-of-a-kind vintage wooden furniture from sites such as 1stdibs, Chairish and Etsy are another option. “Vintage coffee tables and consoles are good because if they are high-quality pieces, they retain their value—just be sure you ask the seller for a lot of pictures taken from every angle to ensure that there’s no damage,” said Joy Williams, an interior designer in Chicago.

The main thing is to keep some perspective. It’s just furniture.

In my mother’s case, nine months after she ordered her rocker, the delivery man—the poor delivery man—finally arrived. On the appointed day, all four of us children gathered around his hand truck, expecting a thrill like Christmas morning.

With a flourish, the delivery man unwrapped the package—to reveal a chair upholstered in the wrong fabric. It was another nine months before they got it right.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: October 26, 2021.


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The Strongest Protection for Your Online Accounts? This Little Key

Passwords aren’t enough to fend off hackers; these dongles are the best defense

Mon, Mar 27, 2023 4 min

Strong passwords are very important, but they’re not enough to protect you from cybercriminals.

Passwords can be leaked or guessed. The key to online security is protecting your account with a strong secondary measure, typically a single-use code. This is referred to as “two-factor authentication,” or 2FA, as the nerds know it.

I’ve written about all the different types of 2FA, such as getting those codes sent via text message or generated in an authenticator app. Having any kind of second factor is better than none at all, but physical security keys—little dongles that you plug into a USB port or tap on your phone during account logins—offer the highest level of protection.

Security keys have been around for over a decade, but now they’re in the spotlight: Apple recently introduced support for them as an optional, added protection for Apple ID accounts. Last month, Twitter removed text-message-based authentication as an option for nonpaying users, recommending instead an authenticator app or security key.

Some people are hesitant to use security keys because carrying around a physical object seems burdensome and they come with a $30-and-up added cost. Plus, what happens if they get lost?

I’ve used security keys since 2016 and think they are actually easier to manage than codes—especially with accounts that don’t require frequent logins. They’re not only convenient, but they can’t be copied or faked by hackers, so they’re safer, too.

Here’s how to weigh the benefits and common concerns of adding one or two of these to your keychain.

Which security key should I use?

Many internet services support the use of security keys, and you can use the same security key to unlock accounts on many different services. I recommend two from industry leader Yubico:

  • YubiKey 5C NFC ($US55) if you have a USB-C laptop or tablet
  • YubiKey 5 NFC ($US50) for devices with older USB ports

Other options include Google’s Titan security keys ($30 and up). In addition to working with laptops and tablets with USB ports, these keys are compatible with smartphones that have NFC wireless. Most smartphones these days have that, since it’s the technology behind wireless payments such as Apple Pay.

Adam Marrè, chief information security officer at cybersecurity firm Arctic Wolf, recommends that your chosen key is certified by the FIDO Alliance, which governs the standards of these devices.

How do security keys work?

To add a key, look in the security settings of your major accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.). During setup, it will prompt you to insert the key into your laptop or tablet’s port or hold the key close to your phone for wireless contact.

Apple requires you to add two security keys to your Apple ID account, in case you lose one.

Typically, when you log in, you just go to the app or website where you’ve set up a key, enter your username and password as usual, then once again insert the key into the device or hold it close. (Some keys have a metal tab you have to press to activate.) At that point, the service should let you right in.

Why are they so secure?

Getting those two-factor login codes via text message is convenient, but if you are someone criminals are targeting, you could be the victim of SIM swapping. That’s where thieves convince carriers to port your number to a new phone in their possession, and they use it along with your stolen password to hack your accounts.

Even if they don’t go to all that trouble, criminals might try to trick you to hand them your codes, by calling you or spoofing a website you typically visit. At that point they can use the code for about 60 seconds to try to break in, said Ryan Noon, chief executive at security firm Material Security.

Security keys protect you in two ways: First, there’s no code to steal, and second, they use a security protocol to verify the website’s domain during login, so they won’t work on fake sites.

You can also add an authenticator app such as Authy to your most important accounts, to use only as a backup. But once you add these secure methods, you should consider removing the text-message code option.

In the rare case that someone snoops your passcode then steals your iPhone, beware: The perpetrator could still make Apple ID account changes using only the passcode, and even remove security keys from your account.

What happens if you lose your key?

The most important rule of security keys is to buy an extra one (or two).

“Think of your security key as you would a house or car key,” said Derek Hanson, Yubico’s vice president of solutions architecture. “It’s always recommended that you have a spare.”

If you lose a security key, remove it from your accounts immediately. You should have already registered your spare or an authenticator app as a backup to use in the meantime.

Where can you use a security key?

Start with your most valuable accounts: Google, Apple, Microsoft, your password manager, your social–media accounts and your government accounts.

When it comes to financial institutions, many banks don’t offer security-key protection as an option, though most leading crypto exchanges do.

What comes after security keys?

Security professionals and tech companies widely agree that passkeys are the future. They’re a new type of software option that combines the high security of a physical key with the convenience of biometrics such as your face or fingerprints. Passkeys are supported across the Android, iOS, Mac and Windows platforms, and some of your favourite sites already let you use them.

You can create a passkey on Facebook in security settings by following the app’s instructions under the security-key option. Dropbox has a similar passkey setup. Once you’re done, you’ll use your face or fingerprint as a second factor, instead of a code or key.

Eventually, physical security keys could be what we keep safe in strong boxes, as backups for our biometric-enabled passkeys. Even then, you’re probably going to want to have spares.

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