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AFMA changes reflect market realities.

The American Furniture Manufacturers Assn. will celebrate its 1001h year of being with a new name, new membership criteria and new purpose.

In what the association touts as an "historic" occasion, members voted Nov. 4 to change the AFMA to the American Home Furnishings Alliance. Of far greater historical significance than the name change is the home furnishings association's decision to open up its membership to furniture importers.

Prior to the changes, regular membership in the High Point, NC-based AFMA was limited to companies that operate a manufacturing facility in the United States. The new organization eliminates that requirement. Now, any company incorporated within the United States that manufactures or imports home furnishings products for wholesale distribution is eligible to join.

A press release announcing the transformation refers to the AHFA as "a broad-based organization that will embrace the global home furnishings community while still remaining a critical advocate for U.S. furniture manufacturers."

AHFA CEO Andy Counts said each of two separate votes taken at the association's annual convention in Sea Island, CA, was unanimous--one among the board of directors and the other among representatives of some 80 manufacturer members who attended the meeting. He added that one member of the 40-man board cast a dissenting vote via an absentee ballot.

From 400 to 252 Members

The votes took place five days before the U.S. Department of Commerce made its final determination of dumping margins in the contentious antidumping petition against Chinese wood bedroom furniture manufacturers. (See box.) It remains to be seen whether or not any of the 30 members of the American Furniture Manufacturers for Legal Trade who filed the antidumping petition last fall, or any other manufacturing members, will drop out of the association as a result of the restructuring.

Counts said he will not be surprised" if the AHFA loses a few" of its U.S. manufacturers as members, but hopes that companies will recognize the association still has much to offer them. "The new organization reflects our continued focus on assisting U.S.-based manufacturers, but also recognizes the new business models many of our members have adopted in recent years," he said.

Those business models include outsourcing all or a portion of manufacturing to foreign operations.

In the last five years, Counts said AFMA's membership declined from about 400 manufacturing members to 252 manufacturing members. With imported products now accounting for more than half of all U.S. residential furniture sales and rising, Counts said the membership would have continued to shrink under the old membership eligibility mica. Counts estimated that about one third of the 150 companies that left the AFMA in recent years were forced to drop their membership because they had ceased domestic manufacturing. Each of these companies is now eligible to rejoin. He added, however, that the decision to amend membership rules had more to do with stopping the loss of additional members than re-growing the association.

"In the future, an increasing number of longtime AFMA members who value the association's programs and services would have no longer qualified for membership," Counts said. "While our new organization will remain a voice for domestic manufacturers at the state and federal level, we will also create new services for those members and prospective members whose business models do not necessarily include domestic furniture production."

In addition to a continued focus on membership services like government affairs, marketing, safety and human resources, Counts said the AHFA "will place renewed emphasis on gathering and disseminating timely, accurate and critical industry data and research to the membership and industry stakeholders."

'Newest Phase of Evolution'

The formation of the AHFA is the newest phase of evolution for the association that traces its roots to the 1905 establishment of the North Carolina Case Workers Assn. That group became the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Assn. in 1911; a parallel group known as the National Association of Furniture Manufacturers was established in Chicago in 1928. The two groups merged in 1984 as the AFMA.

Comets said he is excited about the prospects for the AHFA. "Certainly the fun has just begun," he said. "There's a lot of work to be done. I'm jacked up to get going."
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Title Annotation:Editor's Page
Author:Christianson, Rich
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Previous Article:Coming events.
Next Article:DOC reaffirms dumping ruling, but reduces most duties.

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