How to Find and Buy Furniture Made in the USA
Finding furniture made in the USA is easier than you think!
Furniture sales have traditionally occurred around President's Day, Columbus Day, and other long weekends. This year, Presidents' Day is February 20. If you will be shopping for furniture this President's Day weekend, consider having your money support American jobs by buying furniture made in the USA.
According to the web site of the nation's largest labor union, the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations), about three million U.S. manufacturing jobs have disappeared since 1998; it is estimated that about 1.8 million were lost due to off-shoring. U.S. furniture manufacturing has lost about one in three jobs since about 2000.
Nevertheless, there is good news among the bad: There is still a significant amount of furniture manufacturing left in the United States, enough so that you can buy USA-made furniture without making an exhaustive search to find it. You can buy furniture made in the USA in large department stores, in furniture stores and online. The lists and information detailed in this article are by no means a complete list – if you don't like what you see described below, there is a huge amount of online resources to do your own research. Some research links are provided below.
There is one caveat if you are shopping for made in the USA furniture, which you can probably guess – it is difficult to find economy-priced furniture that is made in the USA. That is NOT to say that all USA-made furniture is more expensive that furniture made in the China. Most of the furniture found in the research for this article was competitive in price with mid-range furniture made off-shore. And of course, there is a good supply of high-end, quality, furniture made domestically, if you can afford it.
If you can only afford the low end – say, about $400 or $500 for a sofa, versus about $800 to $1300 – you will have a difficult time finding a sofa made in this country. A few hundred dollars more should get you a domestically-made sofa. BUT, there is another option, if you really want to buy American – a futon. There are both futon frames and mattresses, made in the USA, available online at http://www.futons.net. They offer 22 different futon frames made in the USA, and many more futon mattresses that are domestically made. You build your own futon and order it online. Between the frame, the mattress, the mattress cover and the shipping, you will probably not be able keep your total below $400, but there is a toll-free phone number to call for help and advice to get the lowest price possible. You get the advantage of having an extra bed in case you need one, at a much lower price than a sleeper sofa, and the satisfaction of having supported American jobs.
Finally, one more note before the research: Furniture, even restricted to home furniture, is a huge category. To make my search more manageable, I looked for only two pieces of furniture – a sofa, which is an upholstered piece of furniture, and a bedroom dresser, which is most often made of wood. As you will see, the number of options and opportunities to buy American are almost overwhelming, depending on what you are willing to pay, how hard you are willing to look, and if you are willing to wait for your furniture to be manufactured and shipped to you.
I searched the web for furniture sold by department stores, furniture stores, and online. I used the search terms “furniture made in the USA” to research domestic manufacturers of furniture, plus I threw in searches on a few well-known furniture brands. While I tried to back-up check as much information as possible online (such as Ethan Allen's 2010 Annual Report) to verify that the companies actually do have manufacturing in the USA, much of this information is relying on the company's honesty. If you use this article as a guide to finding furniture made in the USA, I urge you to double check with the salesperson or customer service, to verify that the furniture really was made in the USA. If nothing else, it reinforces to business that you do care about their claims and are willing to check them out.
Department Store Furniture – Macy's, Dillard's, Sear's, Target and Walmart.
I checked out the web sites of these mid-range to budget major department store chains, looking for furniture made in the USA. There are many other department stores to check.
I was pleasantly surprised by Macy's, for two reasons: They had about a half dozen different furniture collections labeled as made in the USA, and, I was actually able to search on the terms 'made in the USA' on their web site, to find the furniture. The sofas I checked on ran from about $700 (the “Dana” collection) to $1200 (for Denim collection) and more. There is plenty of living room furniture to choose from at the Macy's website, but alas, not so with the bedroom dresser. No dressers turned up in the search, and the few I checked on were listed as “imported.” But I give Macy's a lot of credit, both for carrying some upholstered furniture made in the USA at a reasonable price, and actually being willing to say whether their goods are produced in the US or overseas. (More on that topic in a future article!)
Dillard's, on the other hand, was disappointing, in that their website didn't list the country of origin for almost all of their furniture – searching their website turned up one sofa, for about $1200, labeled made in the USA. My assumption, correct or not, is that if it doesn't say, it's probably from overseas. None of the dressers had country of origin listed.
Target's results were as expected, considering their price point. To their credit, they at least say whether an item is imported. My search on the Target website on 'made in the USA' turned up no furniture, but ironically, did turn up a book entitled, “Re-Made in the USA, How we can restore jobs, retool manufacturing and compete with the World.”
Sears' website searches outside the Sear's inventory to give you additional options. It was a little confusing, but it looks like the search is only performed on the title, since anything with “made in the USA” in the title showed up the search. In the listings, it does not say whether an item is imported or domestic. Within the Sear's furniture inventory – which had sofas as low as $400 – there were no sofas or dressers turned up by the made in USA search, and since Sear's doesn't say the country of origin, it's your guess as to where their furniture is from. Just the fact that Sear's is such an American icon made it disappointing that I couldn't tell where their inventory is from.
Bottom line? While there are many other department store chains to check – Bloomingdale's, Sak's, JC Penney, and lots of regional department store chains – don't automatically rule out a department store as a source for made in the USA furniture. I would start with the stores who own up online to where their goods come from, like Macy's, and work my way down the chain. Predictably, Walmart's website doesn't list a country of origin for its goods. Surprised, anyone?
Specialty and Furniture Stores – Pottery Barn, Crate&Barrel, Ashley Furniture, Ethan Allen and La-Z-Boy.
Your chances of buying made in the USA furniture might be better than you think at these five major furniture vendors. Here's a quick rundown on their manufacturing, as best as could be gleaned from searches of their furniture advertised online to checking our their annual reports (if available) to see if they have manufacturing sites in the U.S.:
Ashley Furniture is sold through licensees of the Ashley Furniture HomeStore retail outlets, and it is the number one selling brand of furniture in the U.S. Per Wikipedia, Ashley manufactures its furniture both domestically (there are manufacturing and distribution sites – Ashley doesn't say on its website how many stateside manufacturing plants it has) and how many overseas (China and Vietnam). They I personally was able to buy Ashley furniture made in the USA several years ago, when shopping for children's bedroom furniture. The salesperson was able to check where each piece I was interested in was manufactured, and I was able to identify buy only made in the USA pieces. I can only assume that they can still do it today. They have 400 retail stores world wide. For price and sheer number of retail locations, Ashley Furniture might be a good source for domestically-produced furniture for those with limited options.
Crate&Barrel has a 'made in USA' searchable website, and they actually had 61 sofas from about 15 different collections labeled as made in the USA, priced from $1,000 to $4,200. They were the only website where I actually found a dresser labeled made in the USA – either the others didn't have any, or didn't say the country of origin. If you like Crate&Barrel furniture, you stand a reasonably good chance of getting something made in the USA here. Like Macy's, two thumbs up for Crate&Barrel's honesty in publishing the country of origin for their furniture.
For years, the name Ethan Allen was practically synonymous with American-made furniture, and they have gotten a lot of bashing lately for off-shoring manufacturing and poor quality. Well, per their annual report, they actually still make a good portion of their furniture here in the USA. The 2010 Ethan Allen annual report states that about 70% of their furniture is either manufactured or assembled domestically. They have six manufacturing facilities in the U.S., in North Carolina (two), Vermont, Virginia, Oklahoma and New Jersey, according to the annual report.
La-Z-Boy is another iconic American furniture brand, and their website is refreshing in its straightforward discussion about manufacturing furniture in the U.S. Per their website, they have five U.S. manufacturing plants where most of their products are either built or upholstered in the U.S. They point out that the cover material is sourced from overseas, as are some parts and components. They have 3,000 retail locations (undoubtedly that's world-wide), and their sofa prices online start at $850. One fly in the ointment: Their online listings don't say where the individual pieces are furniture are made, so, like Ashley Furniture, you'd actually have to go in to a store and ask. Nevertheless,I give La-Z-Boy two thumbs up for their honesty about their manufacturing locations. Along with Ashley Furniture, La-Z-Boy looks like a good bet for finding furniture made in the U.S. without a lot of effort. Of all of the large retailers I researched, La-Z-Boy appears to have the most domestically-made furniture.
Pottery Barn, the fifth furniture retailer I checked out, turned out to be a big disappointment. I could not use the search term 'made in USA' to find items made domestically. I looked at individual sofa listings and found that they either say that they are made in the USA, 'crafted in the USA' or nothing. I wondered exactly what 'crafted in the USA' or 'crafted by North Carolina master craftsmen' meant, and I was especially turned off by their little promotional video about their North Carolina upholstery location. I could be wrong, but it looks to me like they upholster some furniture in North Carolina, and ship in assembled furniture from elsewhere, since they only 'inspect' the frame to make sure it meets their 'high quality' standards. Yep, I felt somehow that Pottery Barn was trying to manipulate me into thinking that they manufacture hand-made furniture in North Carolina, where the reality is probably that their furniture is only upholstered there. If someone out there honestly knows, please comment.
Which brings up a good point that should be mentioned: It appears that Pottery Barn is not alone in only upholstering their furniture state-side, and that you should understand that 'made in the USA' claims by some manufacturers may in reality only mean that they upholstered furniture here, but that it was actually built, and the materials sourced, offshore. If it's important to you (and it is to me), you need to ask.
No Questions It's Made in the USA Furniture – The Little Guys
When you search on 'made in USA furniture' on an internet search engine, the number of small manufacturers that turn up is unbelievable. I had no idea that there are so many small manufacturers of real, solid wood furniture in the USA. Most of them have products that are sold through dealers, in retail furniture stores of varying distribution across the USA. Their websites display beautiful wood and upholstered furniture, and they are proud that they have stayed onshore. You usually cannot buy or even price their furniture online, but can easily use their website to locate a dealer near you. A partial list of these small manufacturers that I came across are:
Some directly market their furniture online, which is terrific for those of us who don't mind shopping over the web. You can actually price and buy furniture from them over the internet. There are two obvious drawbacks: Shipping charges and the internet problem of not being able to actually see, touch and test out their goods. Nevertheless, their furniture is either all or mostly made in the USA and it's clearly denoted as such.
Besides these sites, there is the whole marketing effort of High Point, North Carolina to order furniture directly from the manufacturers there. There is a huge array of furniture advertised here, but don't be misled by the fact that it's North Carolina, because furniture can still be shipped there from offshore locations. I would still confirm that any furniture I might purchase was actually made in the USA.
Some of these I found through websites promoting made in the USA goods, and instead of listing each furniture vendor in this article, I'm just listing the original website that listed the manufacturer. This is a great list of sources for all things made in America that you can use for all sorts of goods. This is not a complete list of such sites, your search engine will probably turn up even more.
Two last notes: There are many well-known brands I haven't mentioned, like Pennsylvania House, Drexel Heritage, Lane, Bassett, Hooker, Stickley, Henredon, etc... A number of these brands are now owned by either by Universal Furniture International or Furniture Brands International. Furniture Brands International's website shows that they have “locations” in the United States and Asia, but no further explanation. Wikipedia states that the company closed 39 of 57 plants in the U.S. as of 2008, which at least implies that there are still some manufacturing locations in the U.S. As with the other brands, you may be able to buy this brand and still buy American, but you need to ask. There is little useful information on the Universal Furniture website.