Friday, September 4, 2009

Taking the mystery out of a custom sofa's cost

I know that costs are extremely opaque to most people when it comes to buying furniture and understanding what they are getting. Recently I had a customer approach me about a custom made sofa. Then, this morning I read a blog that I follow, expressing outrage about seeing a $7000 sofa in a store and being "lectured" about why the cheaper ones were not worth it. Obviously it is not a great sales technique to hector your potential clients. I'm not sure if the cheaper ones were "worth it" or not - maybe they were. But if you want a custom made sofa, and you want it to be sustainable and well made, a $7000 retail number is not a scam and not far off where it will cost. (of course deals can be made and are always done off of that number) Here is my response to the blogger:

"I always enjoy your blog posts. However, your latest post got the blood flowing this morning. Here's the deal: If you want a couch made in Vietnam, China or wherever Ikea makes sofas there are lots of options between $500 - $2500. Some of these are more or less well made and some are not. Some use solid wood and some use particle board for the frames. Some use screws and some use traditional jointery and glue. There is such a variety of quality out there that unless you have hard information it is difficult to know how well the sofa is made. I don't believe an Ikea couch will last 30 years. A good sofa - meaning constructed the correct way with solid wood and a high quality suspension will last that long or longer. Its a personal choice about your budget of course and everyone has to make that call. But in regard to your outrageous $7000 sofa, here is why, in very nuts and bolts terms: If I make a sofa custom made and in the USA, it is also going to be a green or sustainable product as well as lasting a life time. There is no way I can produce a sofa for under about $1500 including frame, suspension and upholstery labor. Add materials - about 20 yards for a good size sofa - and at a modest $40 a yard you have another $800. Now the cost of the unit is $2300. That is my manufacturing cost. Add 25- 30% for mark up and you have a wholesale number of at least $2875. You figure retail doubles at least the wholesale cost and has to add in shipping and now you have a retail cost of about $6000. Not too far off your number that you thought was outrageous. I understand that not everyone can afford a $6000 sofa, but if you want one made of the highest quality, you want it made in the US and you want it to be sustainable, that is what it costs. This is not a rip off or a scam. This is what US manufacturers have to charge in order to survive. Otherwise all of our manufacturing will be gone. You will not have a choice of anything to buy that is made in this country. This is the challenge I face every day in educating my clients. This is the challenge I face in trying to sell next to cheap imports. I pay my workers a decent wage and they get health insurance. As a consumer you have all the choices in the world."

John Strauss


  1. GREAT tips! I love your blog I will be book marking this page for sure!

  2. Thanks Dana! i will keep up the posts as much I can.

  3. Excellent post, John!

    Actually, that $6K-7K is towards the low end of quality custom sofas, too, as I'm sure you know. I work with several lines where *my* cost is $11K-13K for just the frame! The average is probably closer to $6,000-8,000 net (designers' cost, which gets marked up, just as retailers mark up all of their costs). And $40/yard is indeed a modest estimate for the fabric. All told, the average custom sofa will cost the client $8,000-10,000 or more these days, depending upon fabric selections, fill choices, and other detailing, so 7K is indeed a bargain.

    Thanks for your great post on my blog, too. I couldn't agree with you more that you really do get what you pay for.


  4. Hello, I am in the process of shopping for my first "proud to own" sofa. I came across your article while exploring custom options. Very informative and I thank you. If I, the consumer, engages a person/company to build a custom sofa, is there a need for retail markup and should it be expected on behalf of the builder or is the 25-30% markup above the wholesale number enough of a profit to satisfy the builder? I mean, we're not dealing with a retail item.

    David (NYC)

  5. Hey, great list ! For furniture lovers - just saw Ante Furniture and Lighting opening another store

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