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Thread: Should a COM sofa cost me as much as a leather sofa before I pay for the fabric?

  1. #1
    musicals68 Guest

    Default Should a COM sofa cost me as much as a leather sofa before I pay for the fabric?

    Hi again,
    I'd like to know whether this furniture company is being unreasonable or whether, as they claim, "everyone works this way" (which still might be unreasonable, come to think of it). I like their pieces but hate their standard fabrics, so I found my own fabric, which they approved. What they want to charge me for building a sofa with the fabric I buy is exactly what they would charge me for a (cheap grade) leather version of the same sofa. That is of course more than they would charge me for the sofa if they built it in their fabric, and they don't have to pay for any fabric, so why should I pay more to get less?

    I tried to get an explanation, and the best they could come up with was something about it requiring extra labor on their part to supervise the cutting and stitching of the fabric, since their workers are not used to working with it. They could not explain why this would be necessary, however. The pattern has no repeats, and it isn't some exotic material, it's a poly/cotton blend explicitly sold as upholstery fabric, and considerably more expensive than the stuff they offer (about $50/yd). So can someone explain what exactly this extra supervisory labor is needed for?

    Or is this basically a scam, premised on the notion that someone who goes to the trouble of placing a COM order is likely not to give the pricing a second thought? If I go along with this I'll have a sofa in the fabric I want for about $1500 more than the same sofa in their (hideous) fabric.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    Alexandria VA
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    Default Re: Should a COM sofa cost me as much as a leather sofa before I pay for the fabric?

    This is commonplace in the industry. No one really wants your COM order, so you pay more, simple as that. You think of it as a rip-off, but its like going to your mechanic and asking him to use parts for your car that you bought off EBAY, or bringing your own wine to a restaurant and asking them to serve it to you. Many retailers won't even take your COM order unless you buy the COM fabric from them.

    As a retailer, your COM means that I have to package the fabric and ship it off to the maker, and follow that off with a detailed set of instructions how to apply the material. If you think you can simply ship a roll of fabric to someone and they know how to use it, you would be mistaken. I've had COM's installed inside-out on more than one occasion, when the inside was so rough you would think a 5- year- old could tell which was the correct side. So there's more work for the retailer, and less profit on the deal because the ticket is lower. Dunno about where you work, but most people don't like to work harder for less money. I will do outside COMs in my store, but there are handling fees added to cover the extra work and shipping costs.

    At the manufacturing level, its because it requires special handling all through the trip. This starts with the letter from the dealer specifying how to apply the material and what is coming via UPS. When the bolt of fabric is shipped, it has to be sorted from the 75 other packages they get daily on the dock and matched up with the right order. Sounds easy until you realize there are probably 30 other bolts of material coming in that day, with the bulk of them poorly- labled as to what they are and what they match up to. Production lines are all about time-management. A custom order of any kind requires a stoppage in the normal flow of things while a specific instruction sheet is read and figured out. You're going to pay for that stoppage and extra handling. Lastly, if the maker can't sell you the cover, he's losing his ticket sale and profit margin is decreased as well.

    The bottom line is you are asking for a custom and will have to pay for it. The production system is not geared towards non-standard items .

    Here's another tip. When you use COM from an outside source, you MUST unroll the entire bolt and mark flaws in the bolt with a piece of masking tape if you want them cut out of the pattern. If you don't, then if you get a pull or bad section of material in the middle of your completed COM piece, neither the manufacturer or the dealer will replace it or be responsible for it. You must mark them out yourself. This is especially critical if you are buying 'seconds' or from a 'mill end shop', because most their fabrics sold as a bolt will have flaws.
    Duane Collie
    Straight answers from thirty-six years in the business.
    My Private Messages are Disabled - Please ask questions here in the forum.

  3. #3
    nhpinnacles Guest

    Default Re: Should a COM sofa cost me as much as a leather sofa before I pay for the fabric?

    larger fabric stores carry upholstery lines that are made for COM look at the Charles Stewart Co as an example.

  4. #4
    musicals68 Guest

    Default Re: Should a COM sofa cost me as much as a leather sofa before I pay for the fabric?

    Thanks, Fearless Leader, for your very informative response. It sounds like my transaction is not working the way you are expecting it to, which might mean I should give up the whole plan. (But you are sort of confirming my suspicion that supervising the cutting and stitching is not where the manufacturer's extra expense is coming from.)

    The retailer is not offering to have anything to do with the order other than the payment and delivery--they proposed I ship the fabric directly to the furniture maker. (I tried to buy it through them, they weren't interested. I assume that's what you meant about "unless you buy the COM fabric from them". I tried to get them to steer me to a fabric dealer, they weren't interested in doing that either.) As for the "detailed set of instructions", the dealer has no clue how this furniture is made, how could they possibly write instructions for the people who actually make it? And their only contact with the fabric involved sending the swatch that I gave them to the manufacturer. So their profit/effort is not affected one bit (well, the cost of mailing one swatch, i.e. 48 cents, plus one phone call, to ask the manuf. how many yards of fabric I need to buy). Should I be concerned that they are not more involved?

    As for examining/marking the fabric (I am certainly not buying seconds and I'm not intending to buy from a mill end shop, whatever that is--how would I know?), will naive common sense suffice for someone with no experience with fabric? Do I need to hunt for DIY instructions? Is this a disaster in the making? I'm looking at $3300 for the sofa and $1500 for the fabric, so if it doesn't look and feel fabulous I will cry! For weeks! (That's not counting the tens of hours I spent searching for the right sofa and the right fabric.)

  5. #5
    musicals68 Guest

    Default Re: Should a COM sofa cost me as much as a leather sofa before I pay for the fabric?

    Thanks, nhpinnacles, but neither Charles Stewart nor most other companies make a piece the size and shape that I need.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Should a COM sofa cost me as much as a leather sofa before I pay for the fabric?

    Well, like I said most retailers don't want outside COM orders, that's usually the domain of Decorators and Designers. You should not ship the material direct, because that's the retailers job. The Retailer is the customer of the manufacturer, and you are the customer of the retailer. And you are not expected to know how to mark the fabric for application, but the Retailer is.

    If your local Retailer is unwilling to assist in this COM custom, then contact the manufacturer of the piece direct, and ask for the phone number of their Sales Rep in your region. Contact the Sales Rep, tell him what you want to do, and he will direct you to a retailer who will take your order and make sure its done right.

    if you're buying First Quality material, then no need to roll it out and inspect it. The mill does that for you. Thats only if you have seconds or buy from a "mill end" kind of shop.

    I do dozens of COMs a year, its not hard, but there is a procedure to do it correctly so that your piece comes out correctly (mark the OUT side of the bolt, specify if its running 'up the bolt' or going to be 'railroaded', tag and ID the bolt and send a small cutting with the PO so your sofa arrives with your fabric on it, and check for pattern repeats so that enough - but not too much - fabric is ordered from a particular dye lot).
    Duane Collie
    Straight answers from thirty-six years in the business.
    My Private Messages are Disabled - Please ask questions here in the forum.

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    High Point, NC
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    Default Re: Should a COM sofa cost me as much as a leather sofa before I pay for the fabric?

    COM fabrics are never a great value for the consumer. In addition to all of the things that Duane mentioned the price that you are paying for your COM fabric is almost always outrageous.

    I am a manufacturer. Last year I had a situation where a particular fabric was stuck on a slow boat from China and a customer was impatiently waiting. I searched throughout the country for a fabric retailer who could sell me the fabric I needed.

    The best price I found was exactly 3x the price I was paying direct from the mill -- and the retailer had the audacity to say that this was a "wholesale" price and that I would have been charged more if I was not a manufacturer.

    If you apply this to your situation that means that the $1500 you are paying for your fabric can be a lot more than you would have been charged buying it direct from your dealer, even with his markup.

    Jeff Frank
    Simplicity Sofas

  8. #8
    scone Guest

    Default Re: Should a COM sofa cost me as much as a leather sofa before I pay for the fabric?

    If you really love the fabric, consider working with a custom upholstery shop that's COM friendly. The best shops can build the whole thing from scratch-- "bench made," as they say. This is not cheap at all, but you can theoretically get precisely what you want. The hardest part is finding people with all the traditional skills. Some people are really just journeyman level, even if they have been in business for a long time.

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Should a COM sofa cost me as much as a leather sofa before I pay for the fabric?

    Most manufacturer's will accept COM's (Customer's Own Material), and leather as well (COL). It's never going to be less costly however, they typically price COM or COL at their entry level cover price. It will still be far less than going to a full custom house maker, however - as any time you do a one-off, all developmental work costs have to be put into the price of that one piece. For example, if you send in a COM to a maker to apply to their # 1234 frame sofa, they have patterns for that sofa and its pretty easy to just use your material and cut on the patterns. A one-off customer maker has no patterns and has to figure it all out with measurements, by hand. If you want the true benchmade experience, be prepared to pay in the five figures for a sofa, however.
    Duane Collie
    Straight answers from thirty-six years in the business.
    My Private Messages are Disabled - Please ask questions here in the forum.

  10. #10
    scone Guest

    Default Re: Should a COM sofa cost me as much as a leather sofa before I pay for the fabric?

    I think that's true for a very high end maker like Jonas, but most cities have small upholstery shops that have their own frames and fabric patterns. Some don't like COM, some welcome it. In my area a 7' sofa with no tufting, nails, etc. might be 3k-4k for mid-level quality. It's still not cheap. If I were the OP, I'd get a neutral leather sofa from Duane, and put the special fabric on accent chairs sourced from a good consignment shop. Best of both worlds. Remember, if you are using fabric at all, and you intend to keep the furniture, you will eventually need an upholsterer anyway. Probably sooner than you think, if you're really living on the furniture, not just looking at it.

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