Twice a year, in April and October, High Point becomes the center of the furniture and home furnishings world. This week, Stanley Furniture is getting a lot of attention, showing off its new space. Stanley recently moved to High Point from Virginia. It’s just one sign of growth in the furniture industry in North Carolina after years of decline.
U.S. Senator Kay Hagan was taken on a private tour of the 70,000 square foot Stanley Furniture offices and showroom last Friday. Hagan smiled and stroked the fancy, high end pieces in Stanley’s new ‘Charleston Regency’ collection. But she liked the furniture company’s Young America brand the most.
“What I am really, really excited about is 350 employees in Robbinsville, North Carolina making the Young America Furniture," said Hagan. "And it looks great."
"It’s made in America, it’s the safest furniture you can buy," says Glenn Prillaman.
Prillaman is President and CEO of Stanley Furniture, a company headquartered in Virginia for 90 years. But not anymore.
"Even though maybe people may have forgotten it, they shouldn’t. High Point is the furniture capital of the world; it remains the furniture capital of the world," he says. "And while the manufacturing, at least for the type of the goods that we make in adult case goods, has left this country, we are still making a very large amount of our revenues in a factory, in North Carolina."
They’re making furniture for kids in their Robbinsville factory – the Young America brand. Most of the rest of Stanley’s furniture is made in Indonesia. They were part of the American exodus to Asia in order to remain competitive.
While there are a lot of furniture imports coming into the state, some furniture companies never left. Vaughan-Bassett Furniture sits on the North Carolina-Virginia line in Galax. Despite the more recent economic downturn and the decades-long fight for customers with countries like China, Vaughan-Bassett is growing.
There are ‘Made in America’ posters everywhere you look in the Vaughan-Bassett showroom. Bassett says their Timber Mill collection captures the re-claimed wood style, with all the distressing that’s popular today – but without the cost. Bassett says you can have an entire bedroom set for just under $2,000.
“Because we are so efficient in our factories, in the United States, we don’t think the Asians, whether they are in China, or Vietnam or Malaysia, can make this and deliver this for any less to the United States than we can," says Bassett.
He says this efficiency has allowed them to buy the empty furniture plant next door and increase their workforce in Galax in the past year and a half from 600 to 700 workers.
Ken Smith is a partner with the Smith Leonard CPA firm in High Point. He’s worked with furniture clients for 30 years. Smith says there are signs the industry is recovering, but not necessarily in manufacturing.
“For North Carolina, we’re continuing to see more and more distribution centers of people that may be U.S. owned and import goods from Asia or wherever, or maybe foreign-owned but have U.S. operations here," says Smith.
This includes companies like Legacy Classic and Ashley Furniture.
The economics of the furniture industry depends on how much it sells at places like the High Point Market. Housing is getting better, so furniture may not be far behind.
John Gunter is President and CEO of Home Comfort Furniture and Mattress based in Raleigh. He tells Doug Bassett he likes what he sees in the Vaughan-Bassett showroom.
“We currently don’t sell Vaughan-Bassett, but it provides us the opportunity to come in and see what’s new. They brought out a new collection, the eight ten collection which is outstanding," says Gunter.
Bassett answers, “You’ve actually caught us on a first date, we’ll let you know how it goes."