"Do You Have that in Stock?" Stocking Furniture & Freight Issues... June 10 2013

As a full-time customer service person in the furniture industry, one of the most consistent questions I get is whether a desk or chair or tv stand is in stock.  What they are asking is not whether it is in stock somewhere, but literally whether I have it in my physical possession at our company's warehouse.  I completely understand this question and think it's totally legitimate.  After all, before I got into this industry I thought about stock the exact same way.  When we go to Wal-Mart, we expect that every item they carry will be "in stock"--that somewhere in their back room they should have every item they carry on a shelf and be able to go get it for me.  This is the way things have been for years and years in the retail industry, and we have come to expect it.

Big box stores like Costco, Target, Sam's Club, etc. have reinforced our understanding that everything they carry is shelved in huge warehouses, and when we want one of something they sell, all we need to do is go to the store and grab it.  It should be there waiting for us, and to be "out of stock" of something is, well, a gaffe.  It means something in the system has failed.  Inventory levels should be constantly monitored, and new stock sent in to replace items that are low in stock.  This is what we've come to expect, and there is nothing wrong with that.

However, the world of stocking large items, particularly items like furniture, has changed.  No longer do most people drive to the big box store to pick out an office desk, for example.  They buy one online, from us!  :)  What companies like ours specialize in is our ability to offer a huge selection of products at great prices.  We offer WAY more desks, for example, than Target or Wal-Mart can carry in their stores.  Exponentially more.  So if you want more options in finding the right desk for you, shopping online is the way to go.  And we are also able to offer the best prices you will find because--wait for it--we do not stock items.  When you stock items you must pay for warehouse space, which drives costs to customers up.  And even more importantly, when you stock items you must pay for freight to have the items sent to your warehouse, and then you must pay for freight again to send them to the end customer.  By not stocking items, we also cut down on one leg of freight charges, enabling us to offer even better pricing.

This is really the crux of what has changed: freight prices have continued to rise and rise, making sending large items around the country very cost prohibitive. For example, sending a large executive desk weighing about 250 pounds (fairly standard weight) from a warehouse in Illinois to Maryland will cost around $250.  Thus you can see how shipping an item two different times (to the warehouse and then to the customer) would drive up the price.

Further, any shipment weighing more than 150 pounds cannot be shipped with FedEx or UPS; it must go with LTL (less than truckload) delivery, which is generally very expensive.  Even if you ship items in bulk, the LTL shipments go by weight and the price just keeps going up as you add weight.

For these reasons, most companies that sell furniture do not carry stock of the products they offer.  Even stores like Wal-Mart have changed their strategy to offer a large portion of their furniture such as desks only online.  This way they do not have to stock them and can compete on price with the rest of the online world.  Instead of carrying stock, companies now "drop ship" their products, directly from the manufacturer to the end consumer.  The company you choose to buy from is still absolutely crucial, as anyone who has ever bought from an online company poor in customer service can attest to.  Though items are shipped directly from the manufacturer, the manufacturer generally offers very little in the way of customer service.  They merely ship the items to the location where we as the purchasing company tell them to.  If you buy from us, you are still receiving all of your communication, tracking information, help with issues, and so forth from us.  Since we specialize in customer service, you will receive the best in the business in these areas.  If you buy from a bad company, you may never hear back at all once you place your order.

But the answer to this pervasive question is, simply, no.  We do not stock items; they are drop shipped directly from the manufacturer.  This is the reason that often items are out of stock.  It is not a gaffe or a mistake, but rather that the manufacturer has simply run out of stock.  Since items are bought by consumers at unpredictable rates, stock often gets depleted more quickly than new stock of a particular item can be shipped in from the manufacturing plants (which are often overseas).

Hopefully this information is helpful for you in understanding how stock works.  Chances are if one company tells you a desk is out of stock, it is simply out of stock.  You cannot go to another company (as you used to be able to do with most items) and get it from them.  If one company can't get it, nobody probably can, as 99% of all companies today drop ship their office furniture from the manufacturer warehouses.