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RTA flood?

Oggie Member

Yesterday, I got an info email (from woodworkingnetwork.com I think) regarding latest news in woodworking industry. One of those was about some lawsuit by domestic manufacturers of RTA cabinets against whomever is responsible for import of Chinese ones. I would not pay much attention to it if I did not see, coincidently, half an hour later in the warehouse of one of the two of my usual material suppliers, here in Central Florida, a possibly related situation.

About a year and a half, if I remember correctly, they started offering some of those imported RTA cabinets. In the beginning I would see just a few boxes lying around the warehouse, usually close to the door. As the time passed by, there were more and more of those. Yesterday, I visited them for the first time after three or so months. 3/4 of the warehouse was crowded with crooked stacks of RTA cabinets from floor to the ceiling that look like someone was trying to save inventory from a nearby warehouse on fire in the middle of a stormy night. Clearly, they were not planning of storing those there for a long time. Luckily, I needed just some hardware, but if I wanted some sheet material, they would probably tell me to come back tomorrow when they sell all those RTA's and clear the way to the rack pallets....

The worker in the warehouse tells me that is pretty much all they do these days. He says: "Guys like you stopped making their own cabinets and are just buying these instead."

Have you noticed any such trends in your area?

3/13/21       #2: RTA flood? ...
Mark B Member

On the commodity residential end here we are seeing a heavy move to shops pushing stuff like KitchenKompact, Timberlake, and so on, as if they were made in their shop. Some are even pulling in the extreme low end, scuff, and spray whatever color over white cabs and shipping them. Not sure how they pull it off, if they just dont have customers on the shop floor to see no "cabinet making" going on or what. I know they are not being upfront with their customers because several have said "xyz made our cabinets", to which everyone responds that xyz doesnt "make" anything. If the customer is happy I guess thats all that matters.

There are virtually NO custom cabinet shops in my area anymore other than us, and perhaps one other mixed furniture/cabs, and we dont do but 1-2 residential jobs a year for a reason. Its because there is just no demand, we dont do installs, and the interaction is so intensive when it boils down your hourly rate is in the ditch. Other than very few higher end residential jobs or possibly getting in with a custom builder (in which case your not going to compete as a small custom cabinet shop anymore) there is almost no one in our area looking for, or willing to pay for, "bespoke" cabinetry. When you find it its 4 hours from the shop, uber labor and customer interaction insane (read low margin unless you dont count your jaw jacking time).

We are CNC, modestly up to date, but in our area there is no market for the custom cabinet shop with standard stationary tools, table saw, etc. (not that thats you).

3/13/21       #3: RTA flood? ...
Hen Bob Member

We are in Chicago and the Chinese import stuff is everywhere. Quite a few showrooms all sell it. It defiantly undercuts all of the custom shops in the area. They have shops that assemble them before delivery. It's all faceframe and 1/2 melamine boxes with metal 90 degree corner brackets holding them together. JUNK in my opinion.

But they sell the crap out of it.

3/14/21       #4: RTA flood? ...
james e mcgrew  Member

Website: mcgrewwoodwork.com

Adornus opened in Lancaster Chinese Owned american workers


3/14/21       #6: RTA flood? ...
pat s gilbert

The Chinese cabinets are ubiquitous in Calif

As are the immigrant shops.

Both and technology have created deflationary pricing

Is ignorance of google ads or having a specialty a factor?

3/15/21       #7: RTA flood? ...
econ101 Member

Pat is right, a lack of a specialty or niche is likely problematic.

He and Mark and Bob are all also right about the ubiquity of RTA. Tons of it around here in Miami, too. I can't imagine all the problems the average consumer has with that stuff.

I say that because about 15 years ago, I totally gutted our kitchen. Re-plumbed and re-wired. Tiled the floor. New ceiling. Designed the cabinet layout.

Had $2K (at HD retail) of 3/4 oak ply and S4S oak delivered. And a little 1/4 oak ply for door panels.

Built 14 cabinets, doors, drawers and various accessories. 700+ parts plus counter-tops and a new stainless sink, finished and installed. Then I ended my amateur cabinet-building endeavors.

It was a great project, lots of fun to do, very enjoyable but nothing in this house (built in '39) is square, plumb or level. I'd never do it again. Ever. For anyone.

To a custom cabinet shop, it would have been 15-20K.

To an RTA joint, probably 6-8K and 2K to install along with lots and lots and lots of problems. And no way I would have gotten my custom super-duper lazy-Susan and a dozen other totally custom items.

So RTA throws pricing right into the sewer and can only be defeated by being able to get the buyer to fully understand all of the trade-offs and potential problems.

From cabinet quality to inability to customize to who is responsible for install problems to the other 15 things the buyer hasn't taken account of and the RTA outfit will never mention.

The uneducated, starry-eyed buyer only sees the price.

If I don't even want to make cabinets as a hobbyist, I'm positive I don't ever want to do battle as a pro against RTA. Too much effort for too little money.

The moral of the story may be that an uneducated (and maybe ineducable) public will wind up with Chinese junk for cabinets.

And maybe half of them will love it.

3/15/21       #8: RTA flood? ...
pat s gilbert

I acknowledge the world has changed a lot.


Guys who appear to be doing ok despite corvid are guys who have specialties.

Even the genuine high end guys are tired of dealing with those customers

The first question people on "Next Door" ask is what is your specialty.

The only person I see talk about Google ads is Paul Downs. Yet that is where the consumer lives? (not paying for Yelp or Houzz)

70% of the money in the economy is spent on producer goods/capital investment (commercial work). Competitive work but repeat work that does not use import cabinets, if you perform they will be back.

3/16/21       #9: RTA flood? ...
Paul Downs

Google ads is not for everyone. It works for me because I was there 18 years ago. Trying to buy your way to the top of a heavily searched category is a waste of money.

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