BUYER BEWARE: FOAM SHORTAGE AND SUBSTITUTION

I offer a word of caution for those planning to purchase furniture for their home in Puerto Vallarta. The furniture industry is amid a global foam shortage. Foam is an essential material used in the manufacture of sofas, sectionals and chairs, car seats, appliances, and even shoes.

When and how did this shortage occur? In November 2020, furniture manufacturers started to experience a severe reduction in foam and poly/pad supplies. This shortage was due mainly to last spring's COVID-19 shut down of foam manufacturing plants. Even after these foam manufacturers reopened, most operated and continue to produce at one-third their standard capacity. This reduction in production is due to COVID health and safety protocols.

Another impact causing a global shortage of foam comes from the shipping industry. When COVID-19 shut down manufacturing plants and suppliers, it also resulted in a reduction in the number of shipping vessels at sea. Those shipping vessels also faced a massive backlog once they hit port due to reduction in workers to offload containers. The congestion of containers at North American ports is even causing significant delays since there are fewer customs and imports officers. Experts predict that this disruption will continue throughout the rest of 2021 and into 2022.As if this is not enough, yet another issue adding to the shortage of foam is the current unbalance of shipping containers in the world. North America currently faces a 40% imbalance. For every 100 containers that arrive at North American ports, only 40 are exported. This disparity means fewer shipping containers are available to bring raw goods and manufactured products such as foam through the China: USA trade route.

Then came last month's spate of severe winter weather in the South and Northeast. Most of the companies that produce the chemicals required for foam are in Texas and Louisiana. The storms and cold weather shut down the export and transport overseas to manufacturers of foam.

The problem is further exacerbated due to increase in demand for foam. With more people working from home and not traveling, the North American furniture industry has seen an unprecedented boom in demand. Everyone wants new furniture. Warehouses and retail floors are empty. Delivery dates are delayed by an average of six months with no guarantee of delivery date provided. Stimulus cheques by governments in the United States and Canada are expected to create even more demand for furniture while supply dwindles.

The bottom line is that you cannot build furniture such as sofas and sectionals if you cannot get foam. Manufacturers who take pride in their products are working to find alternative sources, reduce their production schedule, and delay delivery dates. They know that the proper foam is critical to ensure the comfort and lifespan of a sofa. The best manufacturer of upholstered furniture (sofas, sectionals, sofa beds, and recliners) in Mexico is Palliser (www.palliser.com). They are working hard to reduce production timelines while ensuring they continue to build their furniture with the proper foam.Unfortunately, many sofa manufacturers will need to settle for whatever foam is available to continue production and stay in business. This increase in low-quality foam on the market means that consumers need to be even more cautious when purchasing sofas, sectionals, and chairs. Since foam in a cushion is a critical factor in determining comfort and lifespan, buying furniture without knowing which foam it was made means it is even more likely you will be replacing it in two to three years.

In next week's column, I will review the different types of foam on the market and share which one will ensure your sofa will be comfortable for twenty years!

If you need any furniture and want to purchase it right the first time, please let us help. Our store, SOLutions Mexico, is located at 363A Constitucion just off Basilio Badillo and open 10 am to 4 pm Monday through Friday. You can also email me at furniture@solutionsmexico.com or visit our website at www.solutionsmexico.com.