In 1977, the value of wood household furniture shipments from domestic manufacturers exceeded kitchen cabinet shipments by 170 percent; conversely, in 2006, shipments of cabinets exceeded shipments of furniture by 78 percent. The most apparent reason for the decrease in domestic furniture shipments is the increase in furniture imports, whereas cabinet demand has increased because of the popularity of larger kitchens and the robust housing market prior to 2006. However, there also are less apparent factors. A large portion of domestically produced wood furniture is sold to consumers from retail stores whose buyers ordered product at semiannual furniture markets. Meanwhile, a growing volume of cabinets are designed and ordered by consumers at home improvement centers. Furniture manufacturers carry large volumes of finished products in inventory, while cabinet manufacturers carry low inventories. Furniture has become a quasi commodity that is priced within narrow ranges depending on quality, whereas sale methods for semicustom and custom cabinets allow consumers to order the species, finishes, and features they want. The price competitiveness of the furniture industry has allowed imports to become the major source of product. The need to price furniture at levels competitive with imports has also resulted in a greater use of composite materials versus lumber and dimension stock. By contrast, kitchen cabinet manufacturers are using greater volumes of lumber and dimension. While these factors have resulted in a contrast in fortune for the wood household furniture and cabinet industries in the United States, possible opportunities exist for the reemergence of parts of the domestic furniture industry.

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Author notes

The authors are, respectively, Economist, US Forest Serv., Northern Research Sta., Princeton, West Virginia ([email protected]); and Forest Products Technologist, US Forest Serv., Northern Research Sta., Delaware, Ohio ([email protected]). This paper was received for publication in July 2009. Article no. 10652.