Re-imagining Relocation in the Now Normal

Written by: Jon Harman

It is difficult to talk about the challenges wrought on global business by COVID-19 without resorting to clichés. Broad pronouncements about massive changes and predictions about the so-called “new normal” have been ubiquitous. Yet our intuition tells us that many of these predictions are little more than guesses.

From Manhattan CEOs to Mumbai couriers, we are all standing on completely new ground, searching the horizon for clues that might help us to get our bearings. But who is qualified to claim the title of “expert guide” in a land that none of us has visited?

Instead of throwing another prediction into the air and hoping it will stick, let’s pause and take a look at the issues that employees, corporations, and relocation management companies are facing in our current very real “now normal.”

What are the Challenges of the “Now Normal?”

Who would have predicted that COVID would lead to a shipping crisis, a scorching U.S. real estate market, and a chicken nugget shortage!  At CORT, we have identified different pressures that have already started to alter the mobility landscape and the relocation industry has not been immune to these challenges as well.

Moving Household Goods (HHG)

Two factors are combining to cause significant delays in the delivery of HHG as we move away through the pandemic.  First, the global shipping crisis has containers in short supply. Companies that depend on a high volume of imports (Amazon, Wayfair, Home Depot) get precedence on ships and even after a shipment date has been set, the individual containers of movers can be bumped from the manifest, leading to further delays.

Assignees moving internationally can expect to be without their HHG for several weeks, if not months. Additionally, the cost of international shipping has skyrocketed taking the price of an international move with it. Delays and costs make moving untenable.   The U.S. moving industry was already facing a shortage of qualified drivers before the pandemic hit.

The pandemic exacerbated the problem while many truckers used it as an opportunity to retire or change careers. The shortage of drivers means that even when the shipment hits the docks,  it may remain in the port for quite some time until a crew is available to collect it.

Temporary Housing

Temporary housing has been the go-to solution for assignments of only a few months, and for employees awaiting the arrival of their household goods. The pandemic disrupted the temp housing market. When demand dropped in the early days of the pandemic, short-term housing companies reduced their apartment inventory – getting out of leases and returning furniture. As business remained slow and as the future remained uncertain, they were reluctant to take on new inventory.

Now, with the relocation market picking up, there are not enough temporary apartments to support demand. This makes it difficult for providers to source new apartments across the country due to vacancies being so low and a greater deal of competition for apartments. Again, when demand is high, prices go up and as rents go up so does the cost of a temp housing stay.

Where buying furniture may have been a solution in other times, the supply chain challenges have hit the furniture retail business as well with consumers waiting months for a new sofa or dining room table. Shopping for furniture in the current environment is a frustrating and time-consuming process that is likely to include months of waiting.

Re-imagine Relocation with CORT Furniture Rental® and CORT Global Network® for the Now Normal

One thing the pandemic taught us is that an overseas assignment can be disrupted unexpectedly by circumstances that are out of our control and arrive, as it were, out of the blue. With the cost of shipping household goods and temporary housing currently being on the rise, renting furniture can represent significant savings while also eliminating uncertainty and waiting.

CORT is a trusted partner in the relocation industry. Since we were founded in 1972 our business has been built around helping people who are in transition. The relocation industry made us the go-to provider for relocation-related furniture rental and we have decades of experience as a trusted partner to the biggest and best companies in the industry. Furniture rental is a readymade solution for the challenges our industry faces post-pandemic.  With the tremendous uncertainty around international shipments, the assignee can arrive at furnished accommodation and start enjoying life in their new destination without wondering how long it will be until their household goods arrive. If they prefer to ship their goods, they can rent from CORT until that shipment arrives, allowing them to move into their new home rather than to delay the move with a stay in temporary accommodation.

At the same time, for shorter assignments, CORT’s Destination Services team can work with local property managers to secure a short-term rental which can then be furnished which allows the employee to bypass the challenges of sourcing temp housing, moving directly into their new rental property instead. Once the assignment is done, by renting furniture, the employees can return to their home country quickly, eliminating the need for a full-fledged move. CORT will collect the furniture while the assignee can move quickly.

The pandemic has upset the go-to process for relocation, but this is not the new normal.  The shipping industry and the temp housing industry will stabilize. Instead, this is the “now normal” and it is likely to be with us for anywhere between 18 – 24 months. Considering all this change, new solutions are needed to ensure a successful move. Furniture rental offers the solution and CORT is a trusted partner to the industry with a decades-long track record of supporting the relocation industry.


About Jon
Jon Harman is a Global Account Manager at CORT where he works closely with CORT’s operations teams to develop projects and initiatives that raise service levels and help clients to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their relocation programs. Jon has seen the relocation world from both sides. He spent eight years as an expat running a DSP in Europe and the Middle East and he also experienced two international moves with his wife and three children. Connect with Jon on Linkedin.