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Canada vs. US Upholstery Furniture - Which Should I Buy When I Live in Edmonton?
Isn’t it funny how you never realize how much goes into a decision until you actually have to make one? Like with furniture. Of course, you want something stylish, comfortable, and at a good price, but what about where the furniture’s made?
If you’re under the impression that Canadian is better than American-made or vice versa, or maybe you’re just curious if there is much of a difference, hey, there’s nothing wrong with taking a deep dive into where your furniture is made. You’re just hoping to get a better understanding of what’s going to work in your home and that’s great!
Since we opened our doors in 1994, McElheran’s Furniture + Design has always stood by our selection process when it comes to the furniture we bring in for you. You want quality, style, and value – and hey, so do we!
And honestly, as long as those three boxes are checked, where the furniture is manufactured is almost secondary. But you asked, so let’s look at the differences between Canadian and US upholstery furniture.
In this article, we’re talking with McElheran’s owner Jeff McElheran. As someone who has traveled to different factories and headquarters in both the US and Canada, he has a pretty good grasp of the differences between the two. And since we are neighbouring countries, there are bound to be some similarities, too. So, we’ll start with that!
The similarities between Canadian and American-made upholstery furniture
For the most part, Canadian and US companies deal with many of the same suppliers when it comes to the materials needed to construct upholstery furniture. So, the same fabric, leather, foam, and lumber suppliers are accessed by both Canadian and American furniture manufacturers.
There are only a handful of ways to make a chair or build a sofa. While some companies may have slightly different methods in an effort to differentiate their brand, if you’re buying quality furniture, it’s generally going to be made the same – no matter what country it’s from.
Honestly, style is also what separates Canadian and US furniture manufacturers, and you’ll see why below. But it should be noted that there is definitely some crossover in the way furniture is designed. If you see a sectional you like from an American manufacturer, you will likely be able to find something stylistically close to it from a Canadian company.
The amount of time it takes to construct your custom upholstery furniture will generally be the same between Canada and the US. It’s not like Americans are faster at building an accent chair than Canadians, so construction time is quite similar.
Shipping and delivery times between Canadian and US manufacturers are also rather on par with each other. Where you see differences depends on the company itself and its shipping efficiencies (or inefficiencies), with the country of origin having very little to do with when you get your furniture.
If you're in Edmonton, there may be the odd case where you'll receive a Canadian-made product faster than something from the US, but the difference is pretty negligible.
The cost of Canadian and American-made upholstery furniture is fairly similar. Jeff McElheran points out, “Even when you factor in the Canadian dollar being worth less, the cost of furniture between Canada and the US works out to be about the same.”
Let’s consider an example of a $5,000 CAD Canadian-made sofa. An American-made sofa, similar in quality, size, and style, would probably be in the high $3,000s to $4,000 USD. By the time that sofa is shipped to you and you factor in the exchange rate, it does work out to be about the same.
The differences between Canadian and American-made upholstery furniture
Size of companies
In luxury furniture, the companies that are US-based are almost always larger than their Canadian counterparts.
And as a company grows, it often uses resources and labour more efficiently.
For example, a Canadian furniture manufacturer might have one person that takes on three or four steps in the assembly of a sofa. Compare that to a larger American company where one person dedicates all their time to one specific task. After a while, that person becomes extremely skillful at what they’re doing, which increases the overall efficiency of the manufacturing process.
A larger company also opens itself up to opportunities to purchase equipment and update its technology, which, again, comes down to efficiencies of scale.
As we see in most industries, purchasing power really goes hand in hand with a company’s size.
Particularly when comparing the US and Canada, most of the reputable and well-established upholstery furniture manufacturers hail from the US. Many American companies have been around for a while, so they’ve had the chance to expand their reach, gain more access to resources, grow as a business, and ultimately wield more purchasing power.
American manufacturers, for the most part, handle a much higher volume of furniture orders – which allows them to buy and sell products and services at a better rate.
It’s kind of like comparing Walmart to your local mom-and-pop bodega. Walmart, as a much larger business, gets better pricing because they’re purchasing supplies in much bigger quantities.
US-based manufacturers with a great deal of purchasing power simply have access to more. More what, exactly? More everything! Upholstery, designer consultations, materials – and all that access can give you, the customer, more options when you’re selecting a new piece of furniture.
As mentioned earlier, Canadian and US manufacturers come out with pretty similar-looking furniture. The difference, though, is that American companies are more often on the cutting edge of fashion.
The United States gets its order volume from domestic sales, Canada, and many other countries. Because of that, American companies have a broader picture of what consumers like and what’s trendy. They have more ability to try out different styles to see what works and what doesn’t.
Very rarely will you see overtly daring and cutting-edge looks from Canadian manufacturers right out of the gate. Fashion-forward furniture from Canada is usually more in response to a popular trend that’s already been established.
Flexibility with customization
Where small scaled Canadian upholstery furniture manufacturers really come out on top is their ability to pivot and make adjustments as needed.
In our experience with a Canadian company like Marcantonio, when a customer wants a different finish or a bench seat instead of multiple cushions, a lot of times they’ll make it work.
These smaller Canadian manufacturers have less staff; therefore, there are fewer channels to go through to (at the very least) get an answer to your inquiries. Sometimes, you may even be chatting with one of the owners! That’s how close to the actual operation some of these business owners are.
Unfortunately, most of the larger US organizations are simply not set up to take those requests or make quick adjustments to your order.
That being said, some US manufacturers can, but those extra customizations often come with a hefty price tag.
There are simply more options in the United States. You can really furnish your entire home under one umbrella, like with Century Furniture, or pick and choose different pieces from a number of manufacturers – all within the US.
The thing is, with luxury furniture, the Canadian market just doesn’t have as many players as the US does.
Jeff McElheran has noticed a shift, though, and sees that Canadian manufacturers are taking up more space in the high-end furniture industry than ever before.
Which is better to buy in Edmonton? Canadian or American-made upholstery furniture?
There really is no right or wrong answer here – or clear winner in the race between Canadian and US furniture manufacturers.
But if you are someone that takes pride in owning something from the “true north strong and free,” you should first look for something that’s a good fit for you. And if you find out it’s a Canadian product, well hey, that’s just a bonus!
And if you’re itching for upholstery furniture that’s right on the cutting edge of style, America-made is definitely the way to go. But otherwise, it’s a pretty level playing field.
The best thing you can do is objectively look at a product based on what it can offer you. Is it attractive? Does it suit your budget? Is it comfortable, and can you see it holding its value? That’s how you determine which is best. Not where the furniture is made.
To further compare some reputable US and Canadian furniture manufacturers, take a look at The Best High-End Brands in Living Room Furniture.
But if you really want to know which one is the best, that really comes down to fit! Your main concern is which furniture will work for you and your home. So, if you’re in the Edmonton area, schedule a visit to McElheran’s and take the time to sit, feel, and experience our selection of both Canadian and American (and more!) products.