Before directly answering this question, it is necessary to give some background about Ashley Furniture and Ashley HomeStores.
Ashley is the world’s largest furniture company.
Ashley manufactures living room, dining room, bedroom, entertainment, home office furniture and other home furnishings in the USA and internationally.
Manufacturing and distribution facilities are located in Wisconsin, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Vietnam and China.
China has been a major source for Ashley’s furniture since the 1980s.
Ashley was one of the first furniture manufacturers to recognize China’s potential as a source for low-cost furniture that could be imported into the U.S.
Over the past decade, Ashley has been gradually moving its production away from China to other Asian (and U.S.) locations.
Currently, less than 10% of total production originates in China.
Ashley licenses its name to Ashley HomeStores located worldwide.
Ashley has more than 1000 stores in over 60 countries worldwide. Over 600 of its stores are in the U.S.
Ashley Homestores is the largest furniture retailer in the USA. Annual sales in the U.S. exceed $6 billion.
Ashley’s HomeStores are independently owned. It has been the single largest U.S. furniture retail chain for the past 15 consecutive years.
Ashley Furniture (the manufacturer) also sells its products through hundreds of other furniture retailers located in the USA and worldwide.
Since Ashley Furniture HomeStores are owned by multiple independent licensees, there may be substantial differences between the stores.
These differences can range from the selection of products displayed to the level of customer service experienced.
The best way to determine what can be expected at any specific local Ashley store is to check with Yelp.
Yelp is an independent review site that should have reviews listed for most stores selling Ashley furniture.
Unlike reviews found on retailer websites, Yelp reviews cannot be delisted, modified or hidden.
Another good independent review site covering Ashley nationwide is ConsumerAffairs.com
The ConsumerAffairs.com review site includes thousands of reviews about Ashley Furniture products.
It includes reviews on furniture sold by independent retailers who have no connection with Ashley Furniture HomeStores.
Ashley’s furniture designs often appear bigger and plusher than similarly priced competitive brands.
It appears to be an excellent value to shoppers who have not studied furniture construction and have not read product reviews.
Achieving this big value look while cutting costs can lead to skimping on the quality of materials used internally, where they cannot be seen.
This is particularly true for upholstered furniture and even more particularly for reclining furniture.
Mid-priced upholstered furniture has dramatically decreased in quality over the past 15 years.
This is the case throughout the furniture industry, including Ashley and also most of its large competitors.
Multiple industry studies over many years clearly show that “price” is the #1 factor in consumer decisions on which furniture products to purchase.
Ashley’s upholstered furniture reflects this reality.
Sofa and couch styles emphasize large, overstuffed looks.
Combined with low pricing, the furniture appears to offer great values.
The object is to make sofas and couches that look and feel great when new in the showroom.
Costs are minimized for all internal components and materials that cannot be seen by shoppers.
Long-term durability is not a priority.
Ashley’s success at selling low-priced furniture that looks great (when new) has forced its major competitors to also cut costs (and quality) in an effort to compete.
There has not been a similar decline in quality for Ashley’s wood furniture.
Ashley does not make solid wood furniture, but its particle board and veneer construction should hold up for many years if taken care of.
Advanced manufacturing technology has enabled the industry to produce better quality wood furniture products while holding prices relatively stable.
Most of these technological advances have benefited large overseas factories.
Asian governments partnered with private manufacturing firms, making long-term investments to modernize huge factories.
In the U.S. large scale mass manufacturing of wood furniture is almost extinct. Almost 90% of wood furniture sold in the U.S. now comes from overseas.
One rare exception to this trend is Vaughn Bassett, located in Galax, Virgina.
Vaughn Bassett has been building moderately priced bedroom furniture, using solid woods and veneers, since 1919.
The top 100 U.S. furniture retailers currently control 78% of total USA furniture sales.
The top 50 retailers control almost 50% of sales nationwide.
This is very different from the situation 40 years ago when the Top 100 furniture retailers accounted for less than 10% of total sales.
Large furniture manufacturers, who once survived by selling to thousands of small and mid-size retailers, are now forced to compete for limited floor space in a small number of mega-retailers.
Study after study has shown that the primary concern of consumers who purchase furniture today, is price.
As a result, the buyers for the mega furniture retailers are also concerned primarily with price.
In many cases, these buyers have the power to dictate the prices they are willing to pay to their major suppliers.
It is then up to the manufacturers to figure out how to cut costs to meet those price requirements.
Ashley HomeStores are exciting places to shop.
They are carefully laid out and filled with accessories that glamorize the furniture being shown.
Prices are highly competitive, and the furniture looks great on the showroom floor.
Before buying any expensive consumer product, it is always a good idea to do your due diligence research.
Start by Googling the name of the retailer and furniture brand and searching for “reviews and complaints.”
For example, “Ashley Furniture reviews and complaints.”
If you do this google search for Ashley Furniture, you will find thousands of customer reviews.
Over 90% of independent reviews from Ashley customers are negative.
Ignore reviews on retailer websites. (Retailers have the power to edit, delete or not post reviews they don’t like.)
Customer Service issues:
Ashley’s customer reviews are overwhelmingly negative.
But some products are more likely to cause complaints than others.
Reclining sofas and sectionals have an exceptionally high rate of complaints.
Non-reclining upholstered furniture also has a high complaint rate.
Cushions that wear out in 3 years or less are a major source of complaints.
Wood furniture has a far lower complaint rate.
Most damage occurs during shipping and delivery.
If the wood furniture arrives in your home safely, it should be problem-free for many years.
Historical note and Personal Anecdote:
I was a buyer for a major furniture retail chain in the late 1970s.
Ashley was one of the brands I purchased furniture from.
At that time, Ashley was a small manufacturer in Arcadia, Wisconsin that primarily manufactured bookcases and occasional tables.
Ashley’s current chairman, Ron Wanek, was also the owner 50 years ago.
Being familiar with Ashley’s origins, I have been astonished over the years at the growth of this company and the major effect it has had on the entire furniture industry worldwide.
I had no clue back then that this tiny Ashley Furniture company was already planning to take over the world (of furniture.)
At furniture market time, I would visit the small Ashley showroom in High Point, NC to pick out the new occasional table lineup. Often I would be accompanied by the owner of my company.
While I did my work, he would sit at a table and trade stories and jokes with Sam Ashley, who we both assumed was the owner of Ashley Furniture.
It wasn’t until years later that we discovered Sam Ashley was actually the west coast sales representative. He just happened to have the same name as the company.
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