I went to a local retailer (hardware type of store) the other day to pick up a few hand tools for our warehouse. As I approached the store, I saw a couple of Chinese knock-offs of the Series 7 chair by Arne Jacobsen. These were horrible representations of this chair, but the likeness was there and I knew without looking that they were probably selling them for about the cost of freight. As I entered further into the store, I also noticed an upholstered arm chair and a contemporary swivel chair as well. So, as I grabbed the tools that I needed and was heading out the door, I noticed the price on the "series 7 chairs", $39.95, I wasn't too surprised, but I was thinking that this was a new low. But then I noticed that the price tag said "Per Box" and then "2 Per Box"
So, under $20 per chair. Now that is a new low.
When I got back to the showroom, we had a discussion regarding the boom going on in China and we touched on a point that I thought might be worth mentioning. It seems to me that most of the product coming out of China is of lesser quality. The metals and materials seem inferior, the fittings and the finish as well. From what I understand, labour is cheap in China. So why are they not spending just a little more time, using better quality materials and manufacturing a better quality product?
It seems to me that if they doubled the quality of that chair, then they wouldn't have a terribly bad chair for the price. (I'm only talking quality, not design) So, that chair might now be $40 and be twice as good in the quality department. Personally, double isn't quite enough, but you get the idea.
So, when are they going to start to realize that more and more people are demanding quality these days and that this is becoming a larger part of the market everyday. The car industry in Asia has already caught on, so I am going to bet that it is only a matter of time before their furniture industry does as well and if that ever happens, then lookout. Luckily, China is still very lacking in the "original design" category and I think that this is where the big hitters have got an advantage. China seems to want to take the easy road to furniture manufacturing and to date, that hasn't included much time coming up with their own original designs. But then maybe someone out there can prove me wrong.
Of course, there is another problem that we are going to have to deal with soon, billions of dollars in disposable furniture, that will all be coming to a landfill near you in the very near future.