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How good is Flexsteel?

By Jeff Frank

Flexsteel is an American furniture manufacturer. The company has made mid-priced upholstered seating for more than 100 years.


Flexsteel Tomkins Power Reclining Sofa and Chair

The company has multiple U.S. factories.

  • Flexsteel’s Latitudes line is manufactured in China.
  • Flexsteel’s South Haven line is manufactured in Mexico.

Retail salespeople will rarely inform you about where the furniture was built. Unless you ask.

  • Latitudes is generally lower quality than Flexsteel’s American made furniture.
  • The Mexican made South Haven line is lower in quality than the Chinese made Latitudes line.

There is a large number of reviews available for Flexsteel furniture. About 80% of the reviews are 1 or 2 stars.

  •  Most of Flexsteel’s competitors have similar percentages of negative reviews .
  • Competing imported brands are generally lower quality. But it can be difficult to find reviews for generic imported brands. The negative reviews are usually directed at the retailer.

A disproportionate percentage of complaints from Flexsteel customers are about reclining furniture.   

Specific problems common to reclining furniture include:

  • Use of 1.8 density foam for seat cushions. This foam has an average lifespan of 3 – 5 years.  Cushion flattening and loss of resilience can start within the first year. Individuals who are above average in size may find the cushions wearing out even faster.
  • Some Flexsteel models use 2.0 density foam. This adds about one year to the average lifespan.
  • Non-removable seat cushions. Most reclining furniture is currently made with non-removable seat cushions. It costs less to making similar furniture with removable, reversible cushions.
  • Non-removable seat cushions wear out in 3- 5 years on average. At that point they lose their resilience and become less comfortable.
  • Non-removable seat cushions cannot be easily repaired or replaced when they wear out.
  • Worn out seat cushions are a  leading cause of complaints. This is a problem for Flexsteel. It is also a problem for most low and mid-priced seating.

Cushions that are removable can be replaced at a modest cost. When the cushions are not removable, the problem cannot be fixed.

Bonded leather fabrics. Over the past decade, bonded leather has been one of the most popular materials for reclining furniture.

Bonded leather is a horrendous material that has generated thousands of complaints.

Many customers who buy bonded leather furniture think they are buying genuine leather.

Others are told that bonded leather combines real leather with faux leather. The implication is that this combination is better than 100% faux leather.

It isn’t!

Thousands of complaints describe “peeling” leather. Only bonded leather peels.

  • Real top grain leather (made from hides) does not peel.
  • 100% polyurethane or vinyl faux leathers do not peel.

100% faux leathers are more durable than bonded leather. They are just as comfortable. They do not cost any more.

Flexsteel’s Nuvo leather fabric is a bonded leather.

Reclining sofas and sectionals are heavy. The frames are inherently weaker than those made by the same company for stationary furniture.   This is less of a problem with individual reclining chairs.

You should try to avoid moving large reclining furniture.

Each time reclining furniture is moved, it increases the chances of potential problems.

The problem areas cited above are not just for Flexsteel. They apply to most low and mid-priced mass produced upholstered furniture.

There are many Flexsteel reviews in which customers state that they have owned their Flexsteel furniture for 15 – 25 years or more. They are very happy and plan to buy Flexsteel again in the future.

Flexsteel furniture purchased today is not the same. It should not be expected to last as long as Flexsteel furniture made 15 years ago.

This is also not just a Flexsteel problem. It is true for virtually all mid-priced upholstered furniture manufacturers.

A recent furniture industry survey indicated that most people expect their new sofa to last 3 – 5 years. The same survey question asked 15 years ago resulted in a majority expecting their furniture to last 7 – 10 years.

There is a very good reason why upholstered furniture doesn’t hold up as well as it used to.

30 years ago there were thousands of small and mid sized furniture retailers across the U.S.

At that time, annual sales of $50 million were sufficient for a retail chain to be one of the Top 50 furniture retailers in the country.

Almost nobody sold over $100 million.

Today over 90% of those smaller retailers are gone.

The Top 100 furniture retailers control half of total U.S. furniture sales.

Two dozen mega retailers have annual furniture sales exceeding $1 billion.

Buyers for these huge retail chains hold tremendous power and encourage cut throat competition.

Only a small number of furniture manufacturers are large enough to supply the bigger chains.

Large furniture manufacturers, such as Flexsteel, are all competing for sales to a small number of dominant retailers.

Furniture discounts and sale prices are the #1 reason most consumers cite for their decision to purchase.

As a result, the buyers for the major retail chains are continually trying to force prices down.

Manufacturers respond by reducing production and material costs.

Everything, especially parts and materials that cannot be seen, is subject to cost cutting.

Customers often complain that all furniture seems to look the same. There is a lot of truth to this perception.

Current styling is largely dictated by what can be manufactured most efficiently by low paid workers with minimal skills.

Lowering labor costs has become a vital part of competitive strategies.

Everything has become simplified to reduce the need for expensive skilled workers.

Fabrics and foam are now cut by computer to increase efficiency and reduce waste.

Covers are pre-sewn and “socked on” to eliminate time consuming upholstering that requires more skill.

Cheaper foam will last long enough to satisfy the warranty. Using tight (non removable) cushions also reduces the amount of foam required.

Non-removable cushions also dramatically reduce the cost of fabric. This is especially critical with more expensive high performance fabrics and genuine leather.

Plywood (and engineered wood) have replaced solid hardwood frames for mass produced furniture.

Huge computerized CNC Routers can produce massive numbers of frames far more efficiently. Plywood and engineered wood frames can be assembled more easily.

One exception to the emphasis on cost reduction has been the growth of high performance fabrics over the past decade.

High performance fabrics combine heavy-duty durability with built in permanent stain resistance technology.

Leather is by far the most popular material people want for their reclining furniture.

The problem is that there are many different leathers and synthetic materials that look like leather. It can be difficult for uneducated consumers to know the difference.

It is important to know the difference between real leather made from hides and the many different types of fauxl leathers.

Click here to see the difference between these different materials.

Flexsteel’s quality compares favorably with other similarly priced motion furniture manufacturers. 

Flexsteel pays more attention to the internal quality of its furniture than many of its competitors.

The blue steel spring foundation gave the company its name more than 100 years ago. It is very comfortable and may be the strongest, longest lasting spring foundation ever made.*

* In the 1980s a federal court ruled that Flexsteel’s blue steel spring foundation was “as good or better” than 8 way hand tied foundations. This was the result of a contract dispute between Flexsteel and Drexel-Heritage over a U.S. government contract.

The blue steel spring is far more costly than the standard sinuous wire springs found in most of Flexsteel’s competitors.

Flexsteel is also one of the largest manufacturers of sofas and sleepers for RVs and other recreational vehicles.

Most of this RV furniture is manufactured in the U.S.

Flexsteel’s quality is generally considered to be at the upper end of the RV furniture makers.

Note – Flexsteel was one of my clients from 1984 – 1989. I represented the company for sales to U.S. military and civilian agencies. 

In addition I was a buyer for a large furniture retailer from 1977 – 1984. We purchased over $1 million of Flexsteel furniture annually.

Flexsteel has been going through some rough times in the past few years. 

  • They turned over almost their entire top management in 2018 and announced “major restructuring” which has included closing several of their U.S. manufacturing and warehouse facilities.
  • According to employee comments over the past year it appears that the company is undergoing very serious cost-cutting in all phases of the operation, which are affecting employee morale and product quality.

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