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Well-Made Reclining Sofa Manufacturer Recommendations

By Jeff Frank

In general reclining sofas have far higher rates of problems and complaints than stationary furniture made by the same company. It is the nature of the product.

  • Reclining sofas combine frames that are inherently weaker than stationary furniture with heavy mechanisms that put tremendous stress on those frames. They also include mechanisms that are prone to mechanical (or electrical) failure over time.

The movement of the seats wears down fabric far more quickly than on non-reclining furniture. This is one reason leather is so popular. It holds up well under strenuous conditions.

  • Unfortunately most of the “leather” currently being sold with reclining furniture is not top or full grain made from hides. It is either bonded leather or leather match (a combination of artificially engraved top grain leather and matching vinyl or polyurethane.)
  • Over the past few years there have been thousands of consumer complaints about “peeling” bonded leather that virtually destroys the look and usefulness of reclining furniture, often within one to three years of purchase.
  • Leather match isn’t quite as bad, but has its own problems after a few years of use.

Reclining furniture by American Leather

High rates of customer complaints are almost universal among the large mass produced reclining furniture brands.

The average lifespan for a reclining sofa made by LaZBoy, Flexsteel, Southern Motion, Ashley, Catnapper and others in that price range seems to be approximately 3 – 5 years.

This is less than half the lifespan of furniture made by these same companies 15 years ago.

  • The reduced lifespan of upholstered furniture and reclining furniture in particular, can be traced directly to the consolidation of furniture retailers.
  • Over the past 15 years thousands of small and mid-size furniture stores have closed down or been purchased by a handful of huge mega-retailers with annual sales of $500 million or more.

Nearly half of all U.S. furniture sales are now made through the 25 largest retail chains.

  • There is cutthroat competition among the large furniture manufacturers to get their products into this limited number of prime customers.
  • Price is by far the most important factor for the corporate buyers of these mega-retailers. The buyers basically set the prices they are willing to pay.
  • To reach the prices demanded, large reclining furniture manufacturers have had to cut costs (and quality) in every way possible that is not directly visible to the customer.
    • For example “tight” non removable seat and back cushions save substantial manufacturing and fabric costs compared to styles made with “loose” removable cushions.
    • The overwhelming majority of mass produced reclining furniture now has non-removable seats. These cannot be repaired or replaced if they become damaged or worn out.

    Reclining sectional by Motion Craft
    Reclining furniture found in large retail stores and on major online websites can appear generic with limited styling variations.

    • This is due in large part to the fact that the majority of styles and designs being shown are dictated largely by economic considerations.

    The majority of mass produced reclining furniture is currently designed to be built quickly using automated equipment and low skilled workers.

    • Building frames and cutting fabrics used to be jobs for highly paid skilled craftspeople. Now these tasks are largely performed by highly automated computerized equipment.
    • Sewing still requires technical skill, but high speed machines and simpler patterns have cut back on the time and skill required.
    • Unskilled beginning upholsterers can be quickly trained to work on only a small part of the final furniture piece (such as an outside arm or an inside back.)
    • Styles that required skilled upholstering by highly paid craftspeople have been largely eliminated in the interest of more efficient mass production.

    Another reason for the widespread generic styling trend is that a small number of huge overseas factories turn out similar low-cost products under multiple brand names.

    The resulting decline in expected lifespan of the furniture is actually an added benefit for the mega-retailers.
    Furniture that wears out in 5 years or less generates higher overall sales than similar products that last for 10 or more years.

    It is not as much of a benefit for the manufacturers who are working on very thin profit margins for each product that they sell.

    Reclining sofa by Hancock & Moore

    If you are looking for higher quality reclining furniture I suggest one of the following U.S. manufacturers:

    The manufacturers listed above are smaller companies that employ highly skilled workers and produce higher priced furniture. They do not represent a complete listing of top quality reclining furniture manufacturers.

    Most of the manufacturers listed specialize in leather, but also offer excellent high performance fabrics. These are highly durable materials with built-in permanent stain protection technology. They are considerably less expensive than leather.

    Reclining sofa from Bradington Young

    Disclosure: I do not receive financial compensation from any of the companies listed in this article.

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