Why doesn't Richardson Seating import restaurant furniture?
30 years ago, Richardson Seating specialized in stack chairs. We have several different styles, different frame colors, different upholstery styles, and different upholstery color choices. Stack chairs were one of the first big American chair to get totally replaced in Chicago. With a few years, It would cost me $20 for a American made frame when Walmart was selling a fully made stack chair for $13.00. We looked into importing stack chairs like everyone else but we couldn't figure out how to make enough money. You could bring them in for about $9.00 and sell them for about $12.00. That wouldn't have been so hard except you also needed to stock the other styles and the other colors. Everyone once in a while you would have 300 green stack chairs and get an order for red. You would need to redo the seats quickly to move the merchandise leaving you with 300 unused green seats. This would add up over time.
Richardson Seating's owner at the time Earl Lichtenstein made the big decision to remain true to our current product line and not import the new fancy styles coming out of China. This was also at the same time that we get rid of sales reps. We were left with virtually no way to spread the word about our furniture until about 2003. Richardson Seating discovered the Internet and have being using the web to promote our products and companies non stop since 2003.
Luckily with our advertising, we have been able to find enough business to keep us going pretty consistently . We could always use more. If you know of anyone that needs American Made restaurant furniture for their grand open, please let us know.
One of the biggest things we did to make sure we weren't fully reliant on restaurant business is that we added two additional areas of business. We manufacture custom logo bar stools and we sell many of our products into the residential market. You can find our diner chairs on Amazon, Wayfair, Target, Cymax, Williams Sonoma, and many others. We also have a few of our biggest sellers online for sale on our website.
Manufacturing furniture is pretty specializes and takes years and years to develop a good supply chain and hire and train employees. It is much easier to import furniture. You don't need any special skills relating to upholstery. Upholstery has always been our strength and importing from China doesn't utilize any of company's strengths.
We decided to continue manufacturing our standard products. The biggest change over the years has been the fall of the catalog and the rise of the Internet. We used to have a hard catalog with loose pages. It would cost us about $30.00. We would pay reps to call on different distributors and make sure that they had a catalog and were looking at it. Each territory in the US was divided amongst different rep groups. If you got a sale from that territory the rep got a commission even if the rep had nothing to do with the sale. The idea was that it was his territory and therefor was probably responsible for the sale.
About 20 years ago, we decided to try selling without reps. It must have worked because that is how we work now. We work direct with dealers, distributors, and architects. They can call us up and get direct quotes,.