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Why Are Beach Chairs So Expensive?

Ian Fortey by Ian Fortey Updated on August 1, 2022. In Beach

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A trip to the beach is a great way to relax and spend a day with friends or family. And while there is plenty to do from fishing off a pier to swimming or just relaxing in the sun with your sunscreen on, you do need a place to do that relaxing. While you could lay out on a beach towel, a good beach chair can go a long way to making your experience more enjoyable.

The problem with outdoor furniture is that cheap stuff never seems to last. The soft materials fall apart, while the frame can corrode or bend and break. Who wants the hassle of buying new chairs every couple of seasons? But on the opposite side, some beach chairs can be incredibly expensive. And prices keep going up. A chair that cost you $30 a few years ago could be double that today. So what gives? Why are beach chairs so expensive? Let’s take a look through all the reasons that are going to cause you to pay a little extra for this must have beach gear.

Quality

First and foremost you hope this is the main, if not only, reason you’re paying more for a beach chair. A chair made of high quality aluminum or other materials should cost more because more went into it. Think of the difference between a cheap, lightweight chair that feels like it might rip or tip over the moment you sit in it. Compare that to a sturdy chair that can handle a lot of weight, and maybe has a cop holder and a built-in shade, ventilation panels, and pockets for snacks or devices. A better quality product took more time to manufacture and higher quality materials. So, in some cases, some chairs can be significantly higher priced than others.

There’s an old saying that you get what you pay for. That’s why it’s always good to research products before you buy them. Check out the dimensions on a chair. Is it big enough for you? Can it hold your weight and offer room to sit comfortably? Does it have those extras you might want like cup holders? Are there a lot of reviews that complain about it breaking?

  • A good beach chair is going to have features like:
  • Sturdy build able to handle 200+ pounds
  • Easy to fold and put away
  • A carrying bag or case to put it in when folded
  • Strong legs and frame that resist bending and corrosion
  • Lightweight enough that it’s not impractical to bring it to the beach
  • Canvas or other soft materials that resist mold and mildew
  • Easy to clean in case of spills or sand build up
  • Long lifespan to ensure many seasons of use
  • Useful extra features like comfortable armrests, insulated cooler pouch, storage compartments and so on. Check for things like headrest pillows and lumbar support as well. These will definitely raise the price but if you’re an avid beach goer then they can be worth that extra money.

Many of these factors require some extra work. Take long life, for instance. You want the material in your chair to last. That means it doesn’t just have to stand up to having the weight of a person, it needs to handle elements. Out in the sun, UV rays can really damage fabric and synthetic materials over time. The color bleaches and they become brittle and fall apart over time. So a good quality beach chair needs to be built with materials that can resist that for as long as possible.

The frame itself needs to be able to handle the beach. Sun is one thing, but saltwater is another matter.  Aluminum can handle saltwater, but what about the fasteners and joints in the chair? Screws and bolts are often made of stainless steel which can succumb quickly to salt water. So part of the price you could be paying may be for those small touches that don’t affect the overall look or feel of the chair, but keep it working even in the face of harsh conditions.

Name Brand Recognition

Sometimes you’re just paying for a name. That is as true of beach chairs as it is of something as simple as a can of soda. You can pay $1 for a Pepsi or $.050 for store brand cola. If you want a Tommy Bahama beach chair it’s going to be more than a brand from Amazon you’ve never heard of that was built and shipped from overseas.

Now the upside here is clear also. That Pepsi may very well taste better than the store cola. And a Tommy Bahama beach chair is likely better quality than the one from a company no one has ever heard of. Even better, because it’s from a trusted company you can have some peace of mind that it will last longer. And if there is a problem, the company has a reputation to think about. That means you’re more likely to get a warranty or reliable customer service. So all of those potential perks, which you may never need if the chair lasts a long time and does its job, are factored into the price associated with a quality name brand.

Type of Chair

A beach chair isn’t just a beach chair. These folding chairs come in a variety of types. A lounge chair may have five reclining positions and put your feet up. But these tend to cost more. Camp chairs are sturdier and are meant for being used near a campfire. A zero-gravity beach chair has lumbar support and a high back that you can use to recline. Folding or sand chairs have very short legs that are mostly just for stability and allow you to essentially just sit in the sand with some back support. A highboy beach chair will keep you up to 18 inches off the ground. There are a range of potential chair types to suit your needs and, of course, the prices can change drastically from one kind to another.

Retailer Markups

As awful as it may be, sometimes stores are just out there charging more because they can. No doubt you have experienced a time when you saw the exact same item for sale at two different retails and one was much, much more expensive. There’s some wiggle room with store prices that can allow for an expected variance in price. WalMart has a lot of buying power so they can get bulk discounts from suppliers and pass those savings on to you. The result is that maybe a beach chair at WalMart is $10 cheaper than an identical chair from another store.

Sometimes the price difference is significant. There are “high end” stores that will sell products at a large markup because it’s simply the nature of the store. They sell expensive things and it doesn’t make sense for them to offer a lower price, even if the supplier didn’t charge them any more than they charged WalMart.

The last few years have seen prices on everything go up and we’ll cover some of those reasons below. At least some of the proposed reasons. But it’s worth mentioning that many huge businesses post record profits in the midst of events like the Covid-19 pandemic during which things were supposed to be harder to produce and sell. That means some companies may very well be charging you more simply because they can get away with it.

Beach Chair Construction and Materials

The cold, hard facts of the world are that nothing is ever going to get cheaper. Every year prices inch up just a little bit. Sometimes a manufacturer or retailer will eat those few cents so we as consumers don’t have to see a slow price increase. But eventually the time comes when something that used to cost us $10 now costs $12. No doubt we’ve all had that moment when we were shopping and thought “when I was a kid, this was half the price!” and then we felt kind of old. But it happens to everyone.

The end cost of any product is built on a tower of smaller costs. The thing you buy in a Walmart is priced to ensure that Walmart makes money off of it. The employees who work at Walmart have to make money, too. Then the company that delivered the product has to make money. Then the place that manufactured it has to make money. Then the people who harvested the raw ingredients have to make money. There are a half dozen people, at least, taking a cut of what you spend on a beach chair.

If any one of those people is put in a position where it becomes harder to do their job, the price will go up. This is in addition to the current supply chain issues we all know about, which I’ll touch on shortly. This is standard construction and materials cost stuff that would exist regardless of the pandemic and inflation and all the other things that raise prices on us.

Chair Frame Materials

If your chair is made of teak wood and teak wood becomes harder to get, the material cost goes up. It’ll do the same for canvas, for aluminum, for vinyl, for anything that may be part of a chair. All we can do as consumers is shop around to find the best deals for the best products.

Aluminum, which your chair is most likely made from, is by no means the cheapest metal out there. It’s not the most expensive either but its durability and price together make it arguably the best material for a beach chair to be made from.

Even though it seems simple, a lot of work has to go into turning aluminum into a chair. Consider that someone needed to machine these parts after determining exactly how long and how thick they needed to be to support weight, and exactly where it needed to be bent to properly function. We take a lot of this for granted, but it is actually a pretty involved process. Of course it becomes automated and a lot simpler to manufacture after that initial research and development phase, but the cost is reflective of the whole process.

Chair Seat Materials

Wooden chairs may or may not include cushions to help make them more comfortable to sit on. But a good folding beach chair can use a variety of materials to make the seat and these too can greatly alter the price and value. You can find chairs made with durable canvas or polyester and nylon. Even cotton is not unheard of. Each of these can not only alter the price but alter how you use the chair which also affects whether or not it’s a good value.

You want a strong fabric so you’ll need to look at what they call denier. Denier is a unit of density based on the length and weight of the fiber. So the higher the number, the more durable it will be. Something like 400 denier is a good start for a chair seat, but 600 or higher would be much tougher and more resilient.

Polyester fabrics can handle UV rays from the sun and the elements, but may not always be the most plush. On the other hand, cotton is soft but it will fade in the sun and risks tearing or shrinking. Canvas is very durable but it can also develop mold and mildew and the texture can make it very hard to clean properly if that happens. So you can see there are pros and cons to everything alongside the reasons why it may be more or less expensive as a result.

Demand

This is related to supply, but we’ll get more into that in a second. Increased demand has seen a drop in the availability of leisure items like beach chairs due, in part, because of how the world has changed recently. Lots of people found themselves with a lot more time since the end of 2019. More people stayed home, more people were focused on themselves and their families, and that increased demand for certain items. We can assume even beach chairs would have been among these things.

Fast forward a couple of years and, as people got back into “normal” routines, we’ve seen vacations increase. After two years of quarantines, isolation, staying home and doing very little, vacations have become popular again. People want to get away. According To Forbes, 35 million more Americans were looking to get away in summer 2022 than the previous year. For some this might mean a trip abroad, but for many this is a beach getaway and that means beach supplies became hot ticket items.

In the height of summer this information will not be of great help to you. But if you can keep it in the back of your mind, try looking for beach chairs, or any beach needs really, towards the end of the season. You may not get the best stock available, but retailers are often looking to dump anything they didn’t sell at this time so you can get some serious discounts on what they didn’t sell because demand is a lot lower once beach season is not practical for most people.

Next to the end of season, pre-season is another time when it’s good to get on board with buying beach chairs. Think of the end of May and into June. This is when manufacturers and retailers are just getting stock out and it’s a good time to get your choice of brands and styles before everyone else gets on board.

Transportation

You probably don’t need to be told that the price of fuel keeps going up. We all pay more at the pumps, but we pay more everywhere else, too. We take on the cost of fuel for the companies that make and ship beach chairs because they pay more to get the materials and then ship the finished product. It’s just one more part of the whole cost that the manufacturers and retailers won’t take on, so it gets passed on to consumers as a cost of doing business.

This cost is arguably the most frustrating of all of them because it doesn’t reflect the final product in any way. No beach chair will be any higher or lower quality because of the gas used to ship the parts to a manufacturer and then ship the final product to a store. But you’re still paying for it.

Supply Issues

Thanks to Covid-19, if there’s one thing we’re probably all sick of hearing about it’s the supply chain. The pandemic led to a major disruption in the supply of almost everything in the world in one form or another. As a result, many things have been harder to get than they used to be and that’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.

Explanations for the nature of these supply issues are pretty varied. One reason related to Covid was that a lot of businesses had to scale back or shut down. That covered everything from end user stores that sold products to the factories where things were made back to the producers of raw ingredients. It created a domino effect that was felt across pretty much every industry and had implications for every kinds of consumer product from food to electronics and, as it happens, even beach chairs.

Remember also that there was a stimulus check that went out with the explicit purpose of stimulating the economy again. Consumer demand for certain products rose which made supplies run low and put increased demand on the raw materials once again. These raw materials are needed across many industries. The result of that is that when anything is produced now, a beach chair, a fishing pole, a kayak, it costs more money to buy because it costs more money to produce. So we’ve created a kind of vicious circle for ourselves.

It’s a Niche Product

If you head to the store to buy a banana you probably have a general idea of what a banana costs. A banana at a store in New York is the same as a banana at a store in Tokyo. There is very little beyond maybe transportation costs that will change the price of a banana these days.

A beach chair is a lot more complicated than a banana. Where did the polyester come from? What grade is the aluminum? Was this handmade or machine made? Was it made in America or overseas? Does it have a warranty? Most of us don’t know all the steps in making a beach chair so we don’t actually know what is a “fair” price for that chair. We look at all the other chairs on the market, or what we paid in the past, and that’s what we go by.

Because it’s a bit of a niche product, we actually end up letting the market and the sellers of chairs tell us what it’s worth and we can choose to agree or not. If we want a cheaper chair we’ll look for one.  But the value of a chair, the reason it’s so expensive, is harder to define for the average person because we’re just going by what we already know about chairs.

So if all of the things we mentioned above – materials and markups and transportation – change the price of a chair from year to year. And they’re more expensive than we’d like sometimes because all of that has to be factored in.

Is a Tommy Bahama Beach Chair the Most Expensive Beach Chair?

Even if you shop on Amazon, which often has good deals, a Tommy Bahama beach chair is no small purchase. Prices for a genuine Tommy Bahama chair range from $75 on the lowest end to as much as $250. Compare that to an Amazon Basics chair, made by Amazon themselves, which costs about $22. Most other chairs range from around $50 to $150 or so and that covers dozens of different brands and manufacturers. Some are a little cheaper, some a little more, but that’s a good target zone.

So why is Tommy Bahama so pricey? For a lot of the reasons mentioned above. Tommy Bahama will use study, rustproof aluminum in a frame. The material is 600-denier polyester that can stand up to the elements and support up to 300 lbs. They feature padded backpack straps, a towel bar, an insulated cup holder and more. Plus it has that name brand clout.

That said, there are many brands that are actually quite a bit pricier than Tommy Bahama when it comes to beach chairs. Check out the chairs produced by Yeti sometime. They are extremely high quality so if you want some of the best on the market, these are a good choice. But they can also cost you well over $300 each. So you’re very much paying for both the quality and the name when you buy a Yeti chair. And that’s just one example.

These other high end brands tend to be found at more specialty retailers, but they are out there. So you really need to balance the features you’re looking for with whether or not you place any value on the name and any perceived prestige it may bring.

What Are the Best Beach Chairs?

The best beach chair is hard to figure out. Based on everything covered above, you need to consider what it is you hope to get out of a beach chair. If, at the end of the day, all you want is to not be sitting in the sand then probably a great beach chair for you is something like the Amazon Basics chair, or a simple Coleman chair. Nothing too fancy, just the basics. If you want something that will look great poolside for the whole summer while you have guests over, then maybe you want to invest in something more luxurious. It will cost more, but the aesthetics can match what you’re looking for.

If you have kids you’ll want a much more durable chair. Something that can handle getting tossed around a bit and maybe end up left outside in the rain sometimes. In this case you definitely want something with an aluminum frame that can stand up to corrosion and the elements better than something with a steel frame, or a chair made from wood. There are a number of factors you’ll want to consider when deciding if the price of any given chair is worth it for you.

The Bottom Line

No one likes paying money when they don’t have to. These days we’re all watching our bank accounts a little more closely. But consider this. If you’re someone who loves the beach and you plan to keep going there, then you could make a case that paying more for a folding chair today saves you money in the long run. If a high priced beach chair lasts you ten years, and you have to replace a chair that costs half as much every three years, maybe it’s a smarter buy to get the pricier chair if you can afford it now.

That said, a wise person said buy the best you can afford at the time. Don’t over extend yourself and don’t feel like you need to pay more for a beach chair than you are comfortable paying. Because it’s true, a beach chair can be a pretty pricey purchase if you’re dropping $200 per chair and you have a family of four people. Remember, the beach is supposed to be about relaxing and having fun. Don’t let costs of chairs stress you out. Get what you need and get out there. As always, stay safe and have fun.

About Ian

My grandfather first took me fishing when I was too young to actually hold up a rod on my own. As an avid camper, hiker, and nature enthusiast I'm always looking for a new adventure.

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