Why is furniture so cheaply made yet expensive?

by | Feb 23, 2021 | Furniture FAQs, Uncategorized | 2 comments

The simple answer to this question is that the manufacturing cost of furniture is a combination of:
  1. Cost of materials
  2. Cost of labor.
  3. Cost of manufacturing overhead (administrative, sales, rent, equipment, machinery, etc.)
  4. Cost of transportation.
  5. Manufacturer’s profit margin.

On top of all that are the retailer’s expenses and profits.

These will usually double whatever price the retailer paid to the furniture’s manufacturer.

Jeff Frank

Jeff Frank

Furniture Consultant

Jeff Frank is a 45 year  furniture industry veteran. He created this blog to provide detailed facts, inside information & advice for furniture shoppers. 




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  1. Ru

    I Hate the CHEAP LOOK of today Furniture…..WHAT’S WRONG WITH THESE DESIGNER!! ….Their designs are Awful… and sure everyone has a different idea of what they want choice wise…. BUT WHAT ABOUT US…We’re still out here looking for Good tasteful high quality furniture thats timeless call us old fashion I don’t give a whoot!! Cause this so furniture that everywhere now is GARBAGE! DID I SAY GARBAGE… LET ME BE CRYSTAL GGGARBAGE.
    SHAME ON THE FURNITURE INDUSTRY TO CATER TO ONE GROUP/MARKET. I’m keeping my so call old fashion furniture/High quality antique etc. …and i hope i don’t meet a furniture designer anytime soon because he/she might just get Slapped for putting this TRASH!! On the market…I’m Out!!

    • Jeff Frank

      I assume you are specifically referring to mass produced upholstered furniture.
      There are several reasons why current designs are “awful” and look similar.

      It begins with the transition of the furniture industry from being dominated by small and mid-size retailers to today’s situation where the Top 100 furniture retailers account for 83% of all U.S. furniture sales. (The Top 50 furniture retailers account for 52% of U.S. furniture sales.)

      Small furniture manufacturers have been decimated. The number of small manufacturers has been declining since the 1980s, when Asian imports first appeared. During the Recession of 2007 – 2010, 40% of all remaining U.S. furniture manufacturers (and 20% of retailers) closed down or were bought out by bigger competitors.

      That brings us to the current situation, where the majority of U.S. furniture sales are made by major retailers buying from large manufacturers. The large retailers have enormous power to dictate to the manufacturers. They are very aware that “price” is the major factor in the consumer purchasing decision. As a result, they virtually dictate pricing to their suppliers for the biggest selling “sale” items.

      If they can’t get the price they want from one manufacturer, they simply go to another supplier who needs the business and will meet their demands.

      The result is that, since 2010, popularly priced upholstered furniture has been designed primarily for maximum production efficiency. Furniture is designed to be manufactured as fast as possible by low skilled (low paid) workers who can be trained within a few days to perform one small, specific part of the production process (such as upholstering an outside arm, inside back, etc.)

      In addition, all parts and components that cannot be seen use the lowest cost materials possible. If cushions feel comfortable when they are new in the showroom and will hold up for one year (until the retailer’s warranty expires) it is considered good enough.

      Multi-year and extended warranties are loaded with small print clauses that exclude the most common consumer complaints and problems (such as collapsing cushions and peeling bonded leather.)

      Warranties can literally include dozens of exclusionary clauses, many of which are very cleverly worded to deny coverage in ways a normal person would not think of. For example, use of cleaning or fabric protection products void most furniture warranties.

      Many warranties have broad coverage for “accidental” damage only. Consumers do not realize that this excludes all problems that occur over time (which is the large majority of consumer complaints.)

      After one year, most warranties require the consumer to pay for repair “labor” and “transportation.” With upholstery, this can be hundreds of dollars. The result is that many (most) consumers do not follow up on warranty claims.

      Prior to 2010, the average mass-produced sofa had a 10 year lifespan. Currently, the average lifespan is closer to 5 years (and less for many large reclining pieces.) High quality furniture is still available, but it is expensive, and not affordable by most furniture shoppers.

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