A reader wrote in recently asking me about Flexsteel leather sofas. We had done some initial research on Flexsteel when we were compiling our leather sofa manufacturer rankings, however, I figured it might be an opportune time to do a deeper dive on the company.
Flexsteel was near the tail end of our initial rankings on furniture manufacturers, falling short on leather quality and overall customer reviews, however, with average to above average scores on craftsmanship and overall value.
Still, I wanted to revisit Flexsteel, to provide readers with a more in depth opinion helping guide any future leather buying decisions.
What's The Background Of Flexsteel?
Flexsteel was founded in 1893, but not incorporated until 1929. I found it interesting that it started its corporate life in the midst of the Great Depression, even a wonder that it is still around to this day.
The name 'Flexsteel' is derived from what they say is a "featured component in most of the upholstered furniture - it is a unique steel drop-in seat spring known as 'Blue Steel Spring'
Flexsteel is a publicly traded company, generating nearly $500 Million in annual revenues. It trades under the ticker FLXS and has been a somewhat subpar investment over the longer term.
Today the company is a top 10 US based furniture manufacturer and generates the majority of its furniture sales through relationships with brick and mortar furniture stores.
Flexsteel's biggest US based retail furniture store partners include Furniture Row, Jordan's Furniture, Raymour and Flanigan, Bernie and Phyl's and NFM.
Flexsteel products are also sold through online retailers such as Amazon, Wayfair and The Home Depot.
The good thing with publicly traded companies such as Flexsteel is that we have more information that we can work with and there isn't the same sort of lack of transparency as compared to privately held companies.
Where Does Flexsteel Make Its Furniture?
Flexsteel has two manufacturing facilities: one in Dublin, Georgia and the other in Juarez, Mexico. The company has what they term a 'blended' strategy, offering a blend of their own manufactured furniture, along with finished products from offshore suppliers, mostly from China, Vietnam and Thailand.
So, if you buy a leather recliner or leather sofa from Flexsteel, the odds are that it is was either manufactured in Mexico or sourced from China.
This piece provides some good coverage of some of the different pieces from Flexsteel, noting that Flexsteel's Latitudes line is manufactured in China and the South Haven line is manufactured in Mexico.
Note that a good portion of Flexsteel's sofas or sectionals are made with power reclining features.
What Sort Of Leather Does Flexsteel Use?
So, here's where I have serious concerns about Flexsteel quality. Yeah the 'Blue Steel Spring' sounds pretty cool and all, and yeah you have patents, which helps set you apart. Sweet. And well, you've been around since the 1800's, survived the depression. Great.
But, when I started to examine some of the leather sofas, specifically most of the power recliners, Flexsteel notably uses what they refer to as 'leather/vinyl', which I believe used to be advertised as 'Nuvo', however, I see no mention of it anywhere on Flexsteel's website. This would have been formerly associated with Flexsteel's Latitudes line, which is imported from China.
"If Flexsteel were a food it would be a Big Mac. Fills you up, reasonable in price, however it will never be mistaken for good dining." - Duane Collie, My Furniture Forum
But, a combination leather/vinyl, is NOT something you want for a leather sofa, and is what we would call a 'bonded leather'. If you have no idea what bonded leather, I'll offer up a reminder from our guide to leathers.
Bonded leather is made from leftover scraps at the tanneries which are ground up and glued back together to form a material that looks and like leather. They are then finished and embossed with a grain pattern to give it a similar look to real leathers. The problem being that these man made materials are not worthy of any piece of furniture. Avoid at all costs.
Flexsteel doesn't make all of its "leather" sofas with bonded leather, but it appears that a good majority of its power recliners are. In addition, it's quite possible that the seating areas are made from real leather, but the low traffic areas are made with vinyl materials, usually the back and sides of the couch.
However, be sure to CHECK the item details for the product you're looking at and review the upholstery information. If it says "Leather/vinyl", it's either a bonded leather product or they are cutting corners to save money, and ultimately, my recommendation would be to walk FAR, FAR away.
Note that Flexsteel does offer a section on their website discussing the leathers used, however there is no mention of any of the bonded leather or vinyl used on any of their sofas.
What Do Customers Say About Flexsteel?
There are A LOT of bad reviews about Flexsteel's leather furniture online.
I'm just going to repeat some of the most common complaints that I discovered.
"Leather is stretched from under-stuffed cushions"
"Leather sofa is peeling"
"Cheap vinyl used on sides of cushions"
"Flexsteel Latitude leather sofa uses Fiber Fill and very uncomfortable"
"Wrinkling leather on arms of the sofa"
Note that Flexsteel also has a 1.06 out of 5 on the Better Business Bureau with a wide range of complaints. The complaints from the BBB included:
"Leather cracking and separating" and many, many complaints about needing new motor assemblies or new reclining mechanism.
What Sort Of Warranty Does Flexsteel Offer?
On the surface, Flexsteel offers what appears to be a pretty good warranty:
Limited Lifetime Warranty on Springs, Frame and Foam
Limited 5-Year Warranty on Electrical and Mechanical Components
Limited 1-Year Warranty on Filling Materials and Upholstery
However, we have heard about Flexsteel not living up to its end of the bargain in terms of warranties.
"Bought a leather rocker recliner and a cloth rocker recliner 7 months ago. The Leather one electronics quit working. Says it has a five-year warranty. That's great if they would ever fix something. Waste your time calling. Expensive JUNK!"
And another one:
"BEWARE - Flexsteel does not care about customers after the sale and has ZERO customer support. My $1,100 chair failed after 3 months and Flexsteel totally ignored me. Their warranty guarantee is worthless. This chair cost me a lot of money and I bought it with the understanding that it had a great warranty. The quality of the chair seemed good at first but after 3 months the filling totally failed. At this point Flexsteel refused to answer emails and phone calls."
Yes, I understand that consumers are more apt to leave a complaint than not, but based on my research, there are just way too many stories of Flexsteel not honoring their warranty with any sort of respect for the consumer.