In your review, Is Stressless Really Worth the Extra Cost? you rated Stressless as the #1 brand for reclining furniture.
But while doing my own research, I came across several *negative* reviews on Stressless.
Is there a possibility that Stressless quality has started to slip in the past few years?
I just spent several hours researching Stressless in response to your question.
I uncovered some surprising information that correlates with your observations.
I found far more complaints about Stressless than should be expected from an expensive top quality line.
As a result of my research, I have dropped Stressless from #1 to #6 in my review article, 21 Reclining Sectional & Sofa Brands Reviewed for 2023.
Previously, I had attributed many of these complaints to temporary glitches resulting from the company’s recent Morganton, North Carolina factory expansion.
The factory expansion, from 100,000 to 200,000 sq. ft., was completed in September 2022.
It now appears that there is another factor in play here.
In 2018, Ekornes, the parent company of Stressless, was sold to the Chinese Group Qumei.
Stressless accounts for 70% of Ekornes‘ total sales.
This acquisition was not reported in U.S. furniture trade publications, since the merger was between Chinese and Norwegian companies.
But I found a recent article published in Hong Kong, detailing serious problems with the merger.
The merger is being described as “the snake that swallowed the elephant.”
Ekornes, the Norwegian company being sold was larger than Qumei.
Qumei has suffered serious financial losses as a result of the merger.
Qumei borrowed heavily to make the purchase, counting on rapidly growing sales to help pay off the debt.
But Ekornes sales (and profits) have slowed down since the merger.
This has placed additional stress on Qumei, on top of the heavy debt incurred.
Although U.S. sales have been growing strongly since the purchase, European sales (an even larger market) have declined.
In addition, the Chinese economy and real estate development have been weaker than expected.
This was even before Covid made things worse.
Qumei had anticipated a major increase in Chinese Ekornes sales, which did not occur.
Overall, Ekornes (and Stressless) sales have weakened since Ekornes was acquired in 2018.
Qumei’s brand philosophy and marketing strategy differs completely from what succeeded for Ekornes over its 80 year history.
The Ekornes brand philosophy and marketing strategy was slow and stable growth, generating high profit margins and long-term dividends.
New products were introduced gradually, allowing them to be perfected before being introduced to the general public.
Qumei’s stated objective has been to rapidly increase Ekornes (and Stressless) sales.
To achieve this goal, Stressless has been rapidly introducing new products.
Most of these new products, especially the powered models, are being produced in Thailand.
The majority of these new products are motorized reclining pieces.
Over the entire furniture industry, motorized reclining furniture has the highest rate of problems and complaints of any product category.
This rapid expansion of product lines, made in Thailand, over the past 4 years is apparently creating quality problems, especially in their motorized models.
I believe that the older manual style Stressless pieces are probably still being made at a top quality level.
I would stay away from their newer styles, especially those with motorized mechanisms.
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