Oak Furniture Land, the biggest retailer of Solid Hardwood in the country and OAKEA's biggest and most powerful competitor, was being grilled by the BBC programme Watchdog this evening for supplying people damaged furniture and then allegedly refusing to replace it, but insisting on repairing it instead.
Watchdog claimed to have records of some 200 people having reported this poor practice.
Whilst we don't at all agree with Oak Furniture Land 's way to deal with the complaints, as it was presented on Watchdog, we at OAKEA feel that the real issue here wasn't mentioned, although it is highly relevant to anyone who is looking to buy wooden furniture in general, and Solid Oak Furniture in particular.
The real issue is this: 100 % solid Oak for each and every component is risky at best and spells disaster at worst! Oak Furniture Land is using this unique selling point - and obviously have to back the 100% solid statement up in their furniture - because that's what people want to hear. But it doesn't ensure the best quality. And it does create more disappointed customers than necessary.
Of course it's tempting to just watch and smirk, as our large and powerful competitor is being accused - on national TV - of providing an awful quality and unethical service leaving their customers with stress, frustration and out of pocket.
However, we believe that there is much more to this story, and that the negative characterization of Oak Furniture Land 's quality was rather unfair. Why? Read on....
Oak Furniture Land was established around the same time as OAKEA - applying the same business model which is to source direct from the factories, with no middlemen and therefore being able to specify own designs and materials whilst minimizing costs. And Oak Furniture Land has grown to probably 200 times the size of OAKEA. They are at once a source of frustration, admiration and inspiration for what they have achieved in business terms.
True to their word, Oak Furniture Land do specify all their furniture to be made of 100% solid hardwood - mostly solid oak. Because that's their Unique Selling Point - the key statement in all their marketing. Perhaps the '100% Solid' statement is the single most important factor for their popularity, consistent success and rapid growth.
But... perhaps they are falling on their own sword, as it seems that their insistence on using 100 % solid hardwood in each and every component in their furniture is the root cause of most of the quality complaints they get. And seen from inside the industry it seems reasonable to assume that they refuse to replace 'faulty' furniture because - being experts in Solid Hardwood - they don't consider the unavoidable cracks, shrinkage and other imperfections as faults. And let's be fair: They have shouted from the roof tops that it's 100% Solid Wood so people should know what to expect. But clearly they can't say that in public, let alone on Watchdog.
Fact is that not all people are experts in wood and many people are buying on the belief that Solid Oak Furniture is better quality than furniture which has veneered components in it, and they expect perfection when buying solid when actually what they get is more IMperfection.
So if anything, Oak Furniture Land deserve praise for their honesty and for remaining true to their 100% Solid promise when they could easily eradicate many if not most of their quality issues if they were to sneak some veneered components into their furniture. But then their 100% Solid promise would be false. And if they decided to introduce fibreboard/veneer openly, then suddenly they would need to explain to the – literally – millions of people who have bought Solid Oak Furniture from them, that 100 % Solid isn't the best idea after all, because it is producing perceived poor quality or perceived faulty furniture - well, then they would lose a lot of credibility.
At OAKEA we specify the best possible material for each component considering durability, strength, aesthetics, customer satisfaction and – of course – price. So on that basis we do specify some of the components as veneered fibreboard. And this has nothing to do with price or cost. It really doesn't save a lot, if anything. We can source the same furniture made entirely of solid wood for the same cost as when some components are made of veneered fibreboard.
Our advice is: Make an educated choice. Buy Solid if you want all the character that comes with it - small cracks, shrinkage, warping, twisting. It's Natural. If you think this is desirable character in the furniture, Oak Furniture Land is right for you. However, if you love wood but don't want the risk of cracks and shrinkage, – and if you want to save 20-30% as we don't pay the huge overheads of more than 60 super stores, then buy from OAKEA. You will have a much lesser risk of these imperfections and this will be the case as long as Oak Furniture Land insists on supplying 100% solid wood furniture.
On that note: Happy Shopping!