Is Ethan Allen Going Downhill?

Real Estate Agent with Blackburn Investors Realty

My daughter-in-law Candace and her mother, Barbara, own an upscale consignment shop in the South Tampa area of Florida. Today she posted this chart on their Facebook page, & it really got me thinking about how buyers, for homes or furniture, have transformed. Perhaps more in the last 3 years than in the previous twenty.

What a surprise that Ethan Allen is below Broy Hill! Surprise to me, at least.  Growing up, nearly every stick of furniture in our house was Ethan Allen.  It was excellent quality, very stylish. The kind that lasts forever and is passed on to the next generation. I know my Mom scrimped and saved and worked hard to buy furniture that would last.

But now...I recently listed a Redington Shores Beach Condo (sort of a pre-estate sale) and the owner needed help selling the contents, most of which is Ethan Allen. All of it was in excellent condition. I took pictures & sent them to Candace at the Missing Piece. Yikes. She wouldn't take it if I paid her! Nothing personal, good quality furniture, but no one likes that colonial style any more. Big and heavy used to mean quality. Solid. Lasting. Today it's the opposite.  The lighter, the better. Slim Is In. Flat screen TVs, wafer thin laptops & tablets.

I was working with a buyer the other day - a young guy, first time home buyer looking for a house in Clearwater.  And some of the houses we looked at had the traditional formal living room and dining room at the front of the house & a combination kitchen/family room at the back. To him, the formal areas were  wasted space. That's not how people live. They want to gather together in an open kitchen/dining/living combo with vaulted ceilings and play games, snack, talk, do homework & entertain...together.

The other thing I notice about today's buyers is that they can rationalize hundreds of a property's shortcomings, just so long as there are granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. If it's shiny, we want it!

I'm just sayin'.


p.s. My brother, Marcus, is in the furniture business and here is his reaction to the chart and the changing buyer profile:

I too remember of course, growing up with Ethan Allen and no doubt, high quality.  When you think how long that furniture lasted, it’s a testament to quality.  Our parents generation looked at furniture as an investment.  Unfortunately, today’s generation does not, more like a perishable necessity.  We don’t deal with IKEA, thankfully, because all in all, it’s extremely poor quality and low level design even.   But, that’s their market and they are successful with it.  Ashley too, certainly is correct down there at the bottom, although their stylings mirror traditional furniture more, so with that look and those price points, a popular line right now.  Good for us, because we handle a ton of it.  Up on the higher end, Stickley, Kargas, Henredon, Century, and Marge Carson are adequately ranked.  We handle all those lines to high end retailers or the design trade.  Now, as for Broyhill ranking above Ethan Allen???  Hmm.  Broyhill makes a good product and I think too often, their upholstery does not get enough credit as good stylings and quality.  Ethan Allen though, is not just “colonial” or maple anymore, in fact, they have evolved quite well.  What may be holding back their quality is that like many others instead of being made here anymore, it’s likely all made overseas now.  Quality control is always a problem with asian factories.  Thomasville is interesting, because it was the first set of furniture I ever bought and excellent quality, but that line more than others, has really gone downhill from where it was 10 years ago.  I have nothing but kudos for Bernhardt.  There product might even be a “tad” overpriced, but, the quality is exceptional and the designs constantly evolve.  I toured their showroom in October and saw their new product introductions……very nice.  Cindy and I bought a Bernhardt sectional when we first moved in to our house.  We still have it, although it is in the basement great room now.  Extremely comfortable, I sleep on it often.  The only problem was over time, the cushions start to sag, but Bernhardt evolved and fixed that problem and their new upholstery lasts longer and does not do that.  Our newer sectional in the upstairs great room looks nice, but has never been as comfortable as the Bernhardt.  The newer one also has forward pitch, which I hate with upholstery. 


Other lines not listed that are worth a look are Magnussen, Jofran and of course, LaZBoy (not just recliners, but their other owned brands such as Kincaid Furniture and Hammary). 


Comments (0)