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Thread: Quality or Price? You can't have it both ways

  1. #1
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    Default Quality or Price? You can't have it both ways

    It's always difficult as a merchant to buy product for display based on what customers are looking for as they walk into the store. When you have been in the business as long as I have (35 years) you develop an eye for quality and its almost like muscle memory, you can spot it instantly. It's not a problem finding well-made furniture, the issue becomes the price. To that end, not everyone wants to spend the money to buy a good piece and is shopping for a piece to fit a space in a given price range. And therein lies the challenge as the buyer - at what point is a piece no longer acceptable? Do we only want to carry better made product being a small store? A lot of younger customers are coming in and they tend to be more price sensitive than older, established clients. It becomes a balancing act.

    Case in point, this Hooker Furniture Saban Console that just arrived today. $ 859 in the store. If this piece were made by Jonathan Charles or Century, it would be three times the price. Because this is an educational forum, I am going to show you the issues with less costly furniture and what you are not getting. To some it matters, others not so much, but to LEARN what you are getting or not getting and how to tell the difference makes you an educated consumer. Sarah (my daughter) doesn't like it when I pick apart a piece we have in the store and I get that - it goes against trying to sell a piece. On the other hand, YOU need to know why this piece is 1/3 the price of a well made one, so here we go.

    Let's start with the overall photo of the piece. Great design lines, good proportion, nice size. This piece is made in India for Hooker Furniture, weighs 64 pounds and is pretty solid. As you look at this overall photo, what jumps out at you? It's the finish - see how it lacks depth and interest? It's muddy, flat, and the drawers don't match the case, which is a fault and shows failure to match grain when produced. I don't like muddy finishes, and the reason they are is because they were done quickly, with minimal finish layers.

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    Photo 2 again shows the mismatch on the color of the drawers vs the case, plus gaps in the drawer fitment big enough to drive a pencil through. This piece was meant to be made fast and inexpensively

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    Photo 3 shows the gaps in the metal banding around the wood top, and this is all the way around the top. This isn't just sloppy workmanship, its no workmanship. You would never see this in a better made piece, not to where you can see daylight through them.

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    Photo 4 is the drawer construction. This is a simple butt-joint, nail / glue build. Not what you want for longevity. The best joinery is a dovetailed drawer and this isn't it. Thin interior edges can tend to chip off at the drawer ends if subjected to an impact, be careful with these drawers if out of the piece.

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    It's adequate for the price and is not going to fall apart, but it will never be collectible or one to admire. It would be great for a young couple starting out in their first home and needing an entry table with storage for not much money, and it has a nice overall look. Would I use this for my own home? No, I would not because I would always see the shortcuts taken and it would annoy me. So what are your thoughts on this piece and those similar to it? Do you like to see The Keeping Room carrying mediocre pieces such as Hooker, or prefer we only carry high quality with higher price points? We always like feedback.....
    Duane Collie
    Straight answers from thirty-six years in the business.
    My Private Messages are Disabled - Please ask questions here in the forum.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Quality or Price? You can't have it both ways

    The lazy me wants a place that I trust that only sells the good stuff. A place I know I can just order whatever I want from and not have to do all the work to determine if it is good quality and if it is worth the price because it has already been done for me, lol. That becomes even more important if I am ordering from a distance and can't look over the pieces myself. Those places are increasingly rare. I appreciate that one exists. I think Hooker for example makes some decent pieces for mass produced furniture. But I would refuse delivery or return the piece here. I have a Hooker TV cabinet. There are no gaps like I see here and I simply could not live with that. I am less concered about the drawers if it isprimarily meant to be a place to display items rather than a storage piece or work piece like a desk. I don't need a 2,000.00+ piece for a spare bedroom or basement. But even for mass produced furniture this is poor. One thing that makes me laugh is that the woods are so mismatched I might have thought they did it on puprpose, a "design element", lol. I will be honest, if I got this from you I would be a little shocked and disappointed unless I knew it shipped directly to me and you had not seen it. But I would expect help getting it returned. Do you want those headaches? There is certainly a place for mass produced furniture, but do you want it to be your place? I will be honest I was not looking for lifetime furniture when I was in my 20s and 30s. But there are so many places that already fill that space and so few that fill yours. I am very curious. Are you going to keep and sell that piece or return it? Is that really considered within acceptable limits for Hooker right now? Maybe consider having a separate section or room or name for budget, mass produced items. If you don't somehow distinguish clearly between them will you loose your reputation for quality?

    Curious minds want to know. What does Sarah say about this piece?
    Last edited by SueCT; 03-10-2022 at 07:48 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Quality or Price? You can't have it both ways

    That particular piece will stay in the store as it's not actually defective, its the build standard that Hooker works to, they are not finely-made pieces and made to a price point. If that were a Jonathan Charles / Century / Woodbridge piece that came in like that, there would be issues with it as those are three times the price and that would be unacceptable. We know buying Hooker that its an OK piece for the money, and the thought is to get younger clientele in the store to start a relationship with, and as they have more disposable income over time they will upgrade to your better product.

    However, I think you are correct in that we should stay with a certain standard in the store and that is of better-made pieces, and let this market segment go. We do not have the floor space to compartmentalize into high and mid-range product. With the cost of transport these days (we paid $ 102.90 to land that small Hooker Console) that adds a lot to an inexpensive piece, but not so much to more expensive ones as a percentage of the costs.

    Sarah is still learning what makes a quality piece and it takes time she is only 9 months into the business. I show her good and bad points on every piece that comes in and it took me years to get that knowledge. That's also why I encourage her to go to the factories to see where items are made when possible. Having just bought her first home just a little over a year she is the Hooker customer and has about (6) of their pieces on order for herself. It's a step up when she was buying Ikea and furniture-to-assemble from Amazon.
    Duane Collie
    Straight answers from thirty-six years in the business.
    My Private Messages are Disabled - Please ask questions here in the forum.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Quality or Price? You can't have it both ways

    At first glance, I said "that's a pretty little console", but when I started looking it over, I said "yikes, these drawers feel like the ones on my Amazon pieces I built myself!" I agree with you that if the drawers are not important and you are just using the piece to display items instead of for storage, it's fine, but I think that the metal frame not lining up with the wood may bother me.

    I have a Hooker bed frame, dresser, and two nightstands on order for our guest room and am pretty curious to see how they turn out. I'm hoping that the dresser especially has better quality drawers, because even though it's for a guest room, I still want to be able to functionally store linens and sweaters in it. Our current master bedroom bedframe is from Hooker Furniture and is six years old and has held up just fine, despite having to be disassembled for a move.

    We do have some other Hooker pieces in the store that are made to higher quality standards, specifically the Serramonte Entertainment Accent Console and Skyline Desk, and the MARQ line we just brought on through Hooker has excellent craftsmanship, so it seems like some pieces may really just be hit or miss. We probably won't order more pieces for floor stock unless we see them in person at market.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Quality or Price? You can't have it both ways

    I think Hooker is kind of a transition brand into better quality furniture. At least it was for me. That is why I asked what Sarah thought. I bought Hooker when I was looking for something better than the deptartment store stuff but couldn't quite swing the higher quality stuff yet. So I can see how some pieces could fit into your store, especially the better Hooker lines. It makes sense to have a few pieces of decent quality furniture that aren't so scarily priced. The table is pretty but 900.00 isn't Ikea priced either, and I would want a little more finish for my money. The challenge is keeping the not so good stuff out. JMHO.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Quality or Price? You can't have it both ways

    We just brought this Woodbridge Randolph Chest in today priced at $ 2,795 and made in Vietnam. Look at the differences in quality from this and the Hooker piece. It's cherry veneers over hardwood, with solid brass handles. The finish is brilliant and has depth, the board matches are top shelf, tolerances as good as any woodworker can make them. Details and design lines excellent. This is a high quality piece, showing not all imports are poorly made. If this was made in the USA, the price would be double. While I realize for some they have an objection to imports from Vietnam due to the US conflict there 50 years ago and respect that, the truth of the matter is some of the best-crafted furniture comes from that country, and the Philippines as well. Don't take an automatic pass on imports, instead learn the art of furniture making and examine the details yourself. This piece also has fully dovetailed drawers - I would definitely put this in my own home and the price point is excellent. I have been impressed with every Woodbridge piece we have brought into the store so far. They are sold out of most items, but we get them as we can.

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    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
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    Default Re: Quality or Price? You can't have it both ways

    Beautiful. I had no idea such nice pieces would come from either place. But why veneers and not solid cherry? Price? I know some curved pieces, for example might need to use veneers but why here?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Quality or Price? You can't have it both ways

    Solid cherry would easily add $ 1K to the price, possibly more.
    Duane Collie
    Straight answers from thirty-six years in the business.
    My Private Messages are Disabled - Please ask questions here in the forum.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Quality or Price? You can't have it both ways

    I agree with Duane and with SueCT here; there are many places selling cheap or promotional-priced furniture so I don't think it wise to try and compete with them if you're operating a smaller niche store. Let the big stores do that and instead, keep the focus on a higher-end products for a more seasoned/sophisticated customer. Also, continue to offer knowledge, excellent service and be a place furniture buyers can rely on to sell only good quality lines.

    Having said that, I think just having more production furniture at all is a change for Duane that perhaps Sarah is ushering in and I see that as a good thing. Forgive me for assuming here with little actual knowledge but I'm guessing that to be the case. I'm guessing that because for years I've learned a lot from Duane about upholstered goods but when it came to case goods, there was always a preference for commissioned pieces by master craftsmen over anything built on a furniture assembly line. Thus, I was never able to relate much to his case goods knowledge. While I always wanted good quality furniture, I never felt I could commission a piece from John Buchanan or another of his cabinet makers. Reading this post and seeing comparisons of production case goods is a nice addition to the wealth of information already available on upholstery. I'd like to see more of that here so I think I'm also siding with Sarah to offer and compare more attainable wood products.

    I think in some ways the case goods are even harder for consumers because they seem to come from all over the world. Even with the better lines of furniture, it can still be imported and that will vary from piece to piece within a brand so its hard for consumers to know where their furniture is sourced. Is it American or is it imported from a place with skilled craftsman? There's almost no information out there so it's truly hard to know in advance what one is buying. There are also an infinite number of pieces available and, especially with higher-end lines, a consumer typically can't see the furniture before they buy. I can march into IKEA and see what I'll get when I open up that flat box with all the amusing little diagrams. But consumers have little idea what higher-priced furniture will actually look like. Some of the best brands have terrible websites with low-resolution pictures and the actual furniture is usually not in a showroom anywhere so, even being knowledgeable isn't enough. Case goods, I think, are especially difficult for consumers.

    I always try to buy only American made furniture and my default position was that imported furniture was bad and American furniture is better. From what I've learned though, it's not quite that simple A lot of Made in USA furniture isn't heirloom quality and because of high labor costs here, many US-made pieces tend to be quite simple in design. More intricate carving, veneer work, églomisé work, or duck shells like the piece currently shown as for sale at TKR in another thread, are all very labor intensive and are unlikely to be made here. Pieces with those characteristics are undoubtably fine furniture but they'll be imported. I don't think India is a place for quality furniture but as Duane alludes to, there are good craftsmen in Vietnam, for instance, with Jonathan Sowter producing good pieces under his Jonathan Charles line. Rock House Farm, parent company of Hancock and Moore and Century, also has an excellent brand of interesting and well-made furniture and accessories produced in Cebu, Philippines. I won't mention the name because its not one Duane carries. At one time, I wouldn't have considered either because they are imported. Although I still endeavor to buy American goods whenever possible, there are some brands and some other places on the globe (not China though) that create stunning furniture. However, knowing that has only come from many hours of reading and most consumers won't do that which gets me back to the point. I think The Keeping Room should be a place known for selling top-quality heirloom furniture that consumers can count on to do the research for them. Focusing on Hancock and Moore and then perhaps a few quality boutique case good lines like JC is a good business model in my opinion. Hooker is more mass market so I wouldn't offer much of their product. I get that there's always a need to attract new, younger clientele but if doing so means compromising your standards, that can actually work against a business.

    If I'd bought that Hooker piece thinking The Keeping Room only sells good furniture, I might feel duped and then assume it is typical of the store's quality and vow to never return. I think it's better to have the younger customers aspire to own pieces from your store and to be the place they'll come to later than to sell them something now that will disappoint them.

    One more thought on the Hooker piece, it's very trendy looking. I always find it interesting when someone comes to this site and asks for a higher quality version of some current look, like Restoration Hardware's bleached-out driftwood tables. I think to myself, what is the point? If it's going to be out-of-style in a few years, why invest in a high quality version of it. Just buy cheap and throw it away when the fad passes. If one is buying quality that is made to last 100 years or more, buy a classic design that someone will actually still want to look at in 2122. Of course I didn't know any of that at 25 and therein lies the dilemma for The Keeping Room.
    Last edited by Ci2Eye; 03-14-2022 at 02:14 AM.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Quality or Price? You can't have it both ways

    That's a good post Ci2Eye. You are spot on.

    That's why I continue to use this forum not as a sales tool to generate business, but as an educational resource. I know that causes my daughter Sarah some concern ("Dad, you can't say negative things about our products") and few merchants would, but my thoughts were this forum was started on the premise that Job 1 was to help consumers navigate the path to what makes a good piece of furniture first and foremost, and if customers come to us because they trust us then so much the better. And funny thing too is when I point out flaws in an item or vendor, it does seem to mitigate back to management in the company. Then I get a phone call asking to take it down - and I never do. My reply is always "If you don't like an honest review, fix your product, until then it stands as is".

    Back in the 1980's and 90's I drove our Freightliner truck to all the woodworking shops and did our own pickups, the benchmade cabinentmakers didn't box and ship. That had the unintended consequences of teaching me wood-working, as my natural curiosity would have me walking with the craftspeople in the shops after we loaded up. How do you do this? Why do you do that? And they would show me. I made hundreds of trips in diesel trucks to make pickups at one time I was going every other week to New England or Ohio/PA.

    But the market changed around 2000. Interest in finely-made furniture waned and around that time it was more important to have the latest and greatest cell phone than a properly made Chest of Drawers. I remember going to the High Point Furniture Market maybe 2005 or 2006 and I could find nothing there that met my standards and style for the store. I quipped to one vendor who asked what my target market was and I replied "I have the look and furniture in my store that nobody wants anymore" and that got a lot of laughs, but it was true. So the little woodworking shops that did that all closed up, or went into making kitchen cabinets, they're all gone now. One still remains in Rhode Island, but I know no one will pay their prices so I don't even promote it because I know the pushback that the current customer will have on finely-made furniture.

    And this is no secret, which is why the industry has moved to imports. People say they want quality, and they do, but not above a certain price point. Case in point, this Saturday a couple was looking at an Urban Barnwood Solid Oak table in the store @ $ 3,200, and they didn't like the price point. It's solid 2" Oak, made from reclaimed barn timbers and made in Ohio, one table weighs close to 280lb. They said "There's one at West Elm that looks sort of like this for $ 2,100". Yes there is, it's an import that have a veneered top and rubberwood as the base and underlayment. But $ 2,100 was all they wanted to spend. You pays your money, you takes your choice, but they will be asking how to fix chips in the table top in the not too distant future.

    Back to this one Hooker piece that started this thread - I would have never bought this piece if it looked like this in the High Point Showroom, which is where I saw it as a new item. A lot of foreign makers can have a tendency to make the first batch of furniture, or prototypes very nicely done. They show the piece, get orders from dealers, then the first production batch comes in 7 months later and is not built to the standards of the model shown at Market. That is what I suspect happened here. Add to that communication barriers where it's difficult for the vendor to pickup the phone and discuss with his foreign manufactuers (plus the time differences) and these issues are very hard to correct.

    That's also why we start small with new suppliers. Get a few pieces in, see what they look like, order a few more...examine them, that sort of thing before we jump in fully. I'm always happy to educate on what makes a good piece of furniture, especially in-store where I can show you in person. An educated buyer is a smart shopper.
    Duane Collie
    Straight answers from thirty-six years in the business.
    My Private Messages are Disabled - Please ask questions here in the forum.

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