Georgia Ports handled more than a quarter of all furniture imported via the U.S. East Coast in Fiscal Year 2022, making it the busiest gateway for furniture in the Southeast.
Major furniture retailers credit Savannah’s location and efficiency in their decision to make Georgia a linchpin in their supply chains.
Chad Smith, vice president of LFI Logistics, the transportation subsidiary of Liberty Furniture, said the company serves the entire U.S. and parts of Canada with cargo routed through Savannah to a 550,000 square-foot distribution center in Atlanta.
“GPA proved during the recent economic and pandemic crisis their focus to maintain U.S. trade route efficiencies by continually providing results through expansion, additional infrastructure and service,” Smith said.
He credited GPA’s resourcefulness in establishing “pop-up” rail yards around the Southeast for Savannah’s ability to avoid terminal congestion while staging cargo closer to its destination – even when the furniture industry exploded during the pandemic as more people outfitted home offices.
While Liberty Furniture is presently focused on pushing out inventory already warehoused in the U.S., two new lines of outdoor and upholstered furniture are expected to boost the company’s sales in early 2023, which could speed the growth of Liberty’s footprint in Georgia.
“When the time is right, we will be adding 500,000 square feet in Savannah,” Smith said. “This warehouse will not only support our ability to serve our customers with available inventory, but also reduce domestic transit times.”
LFI Logistics has recently utilized a drop-lot in Pooler, Ga., to strengthen its truck transport efficiencies while dialing in its future operation when a facility is secured. “We are excited about our direction in 2023 with the continued support of GPA,” Smith added.
Furniture was the No. 1 import commodity for the Port of Savannah in FY2022, coming in at 389,000 twenty-foot equivalent container units, or 14 percent of the Georgia Ports Authority’s total container imports.
“As the top gateway into the U.S. Southeast for furniture manufacturers, the Port of Savannah offers a central location, and direct access to interstate and rail,” said Cliff Pyron, chief commercial officer at the GPA. “Major retailers have found greater efficiency by investing in near-port distribution centers here in Georgia, where they can serve inland markets with shorter hauls and less handling.”
Pyron said the reduced handling lessens the risk of damage during shipment. He also noted that with imports growing from countries such as India, Indonesia and Taiwan, the global connectivity of Savannah’s ocean carrier network is a key asset for port customers. Northeast and Southeast Asia were the source for 88 percent of Savannah’s furniture imports in FY2022. The top two origin nations were Mainland China and Vietnam, with China accounting for just over half the volume, and Vietnam for nearly a quarter.
In addition to being the U.S. Southeast’s busiest gateway for furniture imports, the Port of Savannah is also the nation’s fifth busiest port for exporting furniture, handling 6 percent of that trade. Top tradelanes for furniture exports via the Port of Savannah were the Caribbean, Northern Europe and the Middle East.