Will the cost of upholstery compete with new furniture?
Recently another upholsterer said that it was becoming increasingly harder to convince people that reupholstery was a better option than buying new. This upholsterer was afraid that he would have a hard time charging enough.
Early in my career as an upholsterer I used to try to compete with the price of new furniture. There were times when work was scarce and finance where extremely tight. Often when I would give an estimate, as I was feeling desperate to to get the job, I'd beat myself down in price before I even told the client the price. Then the client would often say, I'll think about it. We went through some years of pretty tight times. It took me a long time to get the message that "God is my provider. He will provide enough work. I just have to be faithful in doing quality work, treating clients like I would want to be treated.
I no longer try to compete with new furniture. I charge what I think is a fair price and treat the clients as I would a friend. While we are discussing the job we are also talking about our families, our jobs, hobbies, the good times and the bad times. I don't try to "convince" the client of anything. I just talk to them as friends. After I give the estimate I tell them that they don't have to make up their minds "today". They can go home and think about it. Do what's right for them. I don't get every job, but I get enough to keep me as busy as I want to be.
The jobs I mainly get are:
1. High quality furniture
2. Sentimental pieces
4. Furniture that fits a specific purpose. For example, it's just the right size for a corner or a nook, etc. They can't find another piece to fit that space.
5. The client is able to have a better choice of fabrics and can end up with a better quality of furniture that they had before.
I do also get some regular run-of-the-mill furniture that I wonder why they are having it done. They could probably buy a new piece for less money, but the quality wouldn't be as good.
There are a number of people who only want the cheapest price, and we wouldn't get those jobs anyway, so why worry about them.
Another piece of the puzzle is that we spend about $250 to $300 per month on advertising (a small display in the local phone directory and also in the larger area phone book, and in two small newspapers) When you get a lot of calls it is easier to get more job. Of the calls we get, I figure that about 1/2 to 3/4 of the people who call us have no idea as to the cost. Some are blown away by the cost. I can imagine their eyes going wide when they hear a price quote. But the remaining 1/4 to 1/2 ask more questions. A lot of those will go a step further. The point is, if you get enough people calling about their furniture, you have a much higher probability of getting more work. If you are proactive in this way, and are able to get more work, you will be less concerned with "competing" with new furniture.
While cost is an important issue, it's not the only thing that is important. A major selling point, as I see it, is that we, the upholsterer, can give the client something that new furniture store can't give them. We can restore their beloved furniture into "Better than new" condition, with a much wider selection of fabrics that is possible with a new furniture store.
Yes, some people will go to the new furniture stores instead of having us do it. That is OK. The employees at those stores need to eat and provide for their families as well. My mindset is that I will get whatever jobs I'm supposed to get. It will be enough. In the event that I even can't make a living at upholstery, God will open the door to a new way to provide for my family. So why worry about it?
So, the main message to you is, do your best to provide quality workmanship, treat your clients well, and be proactive in trying to get clients.