Porter Designs eliminates freight surcharges as pockets of business return

PORTLAND, Ore. – West Coast furniture importer Porter Designs has eliminated all freight charges on new orders, effective immediately. The company said it reluctantly added these charges in 2021 due to the spike in freight rates seen around the world.

“Fortunately, we’re finally getting some breathing space on these crazy freight rates,” said national sales manager Jeff Schwall. “Although furniture costs haven’t seen a significant reduction, we’re happy we are able to mitigate some pricing pressure for our customers. We have seen a significant and sustained reduction in freight rates lately, so we are passing those savings on to our retail partners.”

Porter says its diverse product sourcing – from India, China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Mexico – helps it keep costs down for retailers. It remains a key part of the company’s strategy.

Julie Grant

Julie Grant

“We’re keeping a balanced sourcing approach,” co-founder and Creative Director Julie Grant told Furniture Today. “It’s important to keep your options open and not to put all your eggs in one basket.

“Each country has its own advantages,” she said. “In India, it’s solid wood. It’s handmade and heirloom – high value. Even when freight went up, it presented a value. Mexico is faster and closer and not dependent on ocean freight. Vietnam has huge capabilities.

David Weiss

David Weiss

“We get most of our solid wood case goods from India, so we weren’t in the same kind of jam with freight rates as people are with Vietnam,” said co-founder and President David Weiss.

Weiss and Grant said overall business for the company is improving and trending above 2019 levels.

“As you know, you can’t compare the past two years to now,” said Weiss. “We had a huge unnatural increase. You have to go back further. And we’re above 2019.

“We’re seeing pockets of business coming back,” he said. “But the dynamics of excess inventory are at play. Retailers are very selective, but they’re buying. We’re seeing a tendency toward case goods, as many are overstocked on upholstery.”

Design-wise, Porter says customers are moving toward lighter woods.

“Retailers want a variety of styles, but we’re seeing them get rid of the sea of espresso across their floors,” said Grant. “They’re going for more marble, more lighter woods, more acacia and more whites.”

Sustainability remains a key focus for the company. Porter launched its Good Earth upholstery line at the previous spring market in High Point. Good Earth is produced using minimal waste and with sustainable and recycled materials.

In 2021, the company partnered with the Earthworm Foundation to help reduce carbon emissions. It also planted 10,000 tree saplings in India.

“The focus of our entire company’s energy is going toward Good Earth and sustainably produced goods,” said Weiss. “We want to be able to bring the premium down.”

“The statistics are bearing that Millennial buyers care,” he said. “It’s important to them. They’re inheriting the Earth. We’ve been converting our company to produce goods that are better for the Earth. The furniture industry tends to be later in adapting, but we believe the industry will eventually be forced into it. We want to be a case for change.”

Related stories: