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Cashing in on the remodeling market.


The U.S. cabinet industry stumbled along with the homebuilding market in 1990, but its fall was softened by a healthy surge in sales related to residential repair and remodeling.

According to the most recent figures released by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn./F.W. Dodge, total demand for kitchen cabinets and bath vanities dropped 6.4 percent from a peak of 48 million units in 1989 to an estimated 44.9 million units in 1990. (See table.)

The lowered demand was precipitated by an estimated 16.7 percent drop in cabinets and vanities for new construction in what F.W. Dodge labeled "the worst year for the housing industry since the early 1980s." The 1,133,000 dwellings built in 1990 were only slightly above the 1,097,000 built in 1982, which was the decade's weakest output of homes, condominiums and apartments.

As bad a year as 1990 was, it could have been worse if not for a continued increase in cabinet demand for remodeling and repair purposes. Since 1986, KCMA/ F.W. Dodge report that the total demand for cabinets and vanities used in remodeling has increased 55.5 percent. During this same five-year period, remodeling's slice of the cabinet and vanity pie has grown from 42.6 percent to 62.4 percent. What's more, remodeling's share of the cabinet/ vanity market is seen growing to 63.6 percent this year.

Remodeling big for Top 25

The growing importance of the remodeling market for cabinet sales is also captured in WOOD & WOOD PRODUCTS' fourth annual survey of the nation's Top 25 cabinet manufacturers. Of the 17 companies that were members of the Top 25 in 1989, 11 reported that remodeling accounted for a bigger proportion of sales in 1990 than it did in 1988. Only two, Yorktowne Inc. of Red Lion, Pa., and General Marble Corp. of Cucamonga, Calif., reported that the percentage of new construction sales had increased from 1988 to 1990. (Riviera Cabinets of Pompano Beach, Fla., was unable to present figures for 1990.)

While saying he was unable to pin a figure on his firm's remodeling-linked sales, Mickey Kurzman of Triangle Pacific Corp., Dallas, Texas, said, "There has been a continuing trend for remodeling taking up more and more of our production each year."

WCI Cabinet Group of Richmond, Ind., the nation's third largest cabinet group, reported that the percentages of estimated cabinet sales generated by new construction/ remodeling have reversed from 60-40 in 1988 to 40-60 in 1990. Jerry Bascuk, vice president/controller, said the remodeling market has helped keep WCI on a steady course. "It is a growing area for us. We're hitting most every price level and design style equally," he said.

Gordon's Cabinet Shop Inc. of Riverside, Calif., went from zero remodeling sales in 1988 to 10 percent last year. Other Top 25 companies that owed much bigger portions of their business to the remodeling boom include:

* Brammer Manufacturing Inc. of Davenport, Iowa, 65 percent in 1990 - 50 percent in 1988;

* Kitchen Kompact Inc. of Jeffersonville, Ind., 50 percent in 1990 - 35 percent in 1988;

* Mid Continent Cabinetry of St. Paul, Minn., 45 percent in 1990 - 35 percent in 1988;

* Marsh Furniture Co. of High Point, N.C., 25 percent in 1990 - 10 percent in 1988;

* Wood-Mode of Kreamer, Pa., 70 percent in 1990 - 58 percent in 1988;

* Crystal Cabinet Works Inc. of Princeton, Minn., 70 percent in 1990 - 60 percent in 1988; and

* Medallion Kitchens of Waconia, Minn., 60 percent in 1990 - 50 percent in 1988.

White cabinets remain red hot

Given an opportunity to comment on cabinet styles and design trends, the majority of Top 25 spokesmen noted the continued trend to white finishes followed by pickled finishes.

"The popularity of white and pickled finishes continues to grow," said Gary Lautzenhiser, senior vice president sales and marketing for Aristokraft, Jasper, Ind. "European (32mm) demand shows substantial growth and foil-wrapped styles are also quite popular with white being bright, clean looking and easy to maintain."

Brad Lewis, vice president of sales and marketing for Crystal Cabinet Works, was more succinct in commenting, "polyester and any product painted white" is hot, while Carl Bohn Jr., vice president of national accounts for Mid Continent Cabinetry, simply stated, "White, white, white!"

Larry Arbogast, vice president of sales for Wood-Mode, said, "English country and eclectic styles and light, natural wood stains and colors from white (80 to 90 percent) to pastels to trend primaries" are in vogue.

Frameless still growing

Frameless cabinets, once written off as a fad by many industry pundits, continue to gain a larger share of the market. Sixteen of this year's Top 25 offer frameless lines. Two of them, General Marble Corp. and Marsh Furniture, introduced their first frameless lines in 1990.

Bob Tsuchiyama, president and CEO of General Marble, which specializes in bath vanities, reported that 5 percent of his company's $52 million sales for 1990 were generated by no-frame products. "Frameless is gaining popularity," said Tsuchiyama.

Marsh Furniture recently invested in "32mm frameless equipment," according to Ron Bowen, retail sales manager, who also noted an increased demand for full overlay doors. In its first year in the no-frame business, frameless cabinets and vanities accounted for approximately 10 percent of Marsh Furniture's $40 million in sales. The frameless entry helped Marsh post a sales gain of nearly 18 percent over 1989.

Last year, Merillat Industries, a division of Masco Corp., Taylor, Mich., broke ground for a new 200,000-plus-square-foot plant in Loudonville, Ohio. It is the company's first facility geared exclusively for manufacturing frameless cabinets, including the company's Avia and Amera lines.

Riviera Cabinets, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, opened up a second plant in Ohio, this one in Lancaster. Almost half of the 38,000-square-foot plant is dedicated to producing Entree contemporary cabinetry, using 32mm system construction. The line includes white postformed doors and white gloss MDF doors. Company plans include expanding the number of high-pressure laminated door styles, as well as traditional wood door styles.

Other Top 25 companies that made bigger commitments to frameless production include:

* Rutt Custom Cabinetry of Goodville, Pa., 80 percent in 1990 - 60 percent in 1989;

* Wood-Mode, 50 percent in 1990 - 30 percent in 1989; and

* Gordon's Cabinet Shop, 15 percent in 1990 - 5 percent in 1989.

Tooling up for the '90s

The weak economy dampened but did not halt capital improvements among the nation's leading cabinetmakers. In addition to Merillat's and Riviera's new Ohio frameless cabinet manufacturing plants, developments included:

* Aristokraft constructed a dimension plant in Crossville, Tenn.

* General Marble Corp. opened a new $8 million manufacturing facility in Lincolnton, N.C.

* Gordon's Cabinet Shop acquired Westech Cabinets of Corona, Calif., invested $450,000 in machinery and expanded its Mexico plant by adding 65,000 square feet.

* Wood-Mode invested more than $1 million on a state-of-the-art finishing system and machinery for just-in-time manufacturing.

* Mid Continent realigned production work flow to shorten lead times.

* LesCare Kitchens Inc. of Waterbury, Conn., added a new training center and showroom for dealer and distributor workshops, plus a new high-speed laminating system.

* Medallion, under new ownership, invested $375,000 on new equipment, including a cross grain sander, an end panel machine, a roll laminator for end panels and a dovetail machine.

* Wellborn Cabinets Inc. of Ashland, Ala., added a new 90,000-square-foot lumber storage building, a 130,000-square-foot building for cabinet inventory, a Holz-Her panel saw, and a new paint room and CNC router for production of Roman arch profile high density fiberboard doors.

* American Woodmark has broadened its product line by adding 30 new specialty cabinets and accessories in stock, semi-custom and frameless categories.

* Cardell invested $450,000 on new equipment and plant layout.

* McConnell Cabinets of El Monte, Calif., added a new vinyl laminating facility in the City of Industry "to produce items we had not had space to do before," said Michael McConnell, general manager.

* Evans Cabinet Co. of Dublin, Ga., purchased a wood hog to reduce landfill costs. Waste disposal was a major area of concern cited by Brent Evans, vice president of production.

Key concerns

The top two concerns of the Top 25 revolve around government intervention and industry competition.

Several of the companies reported that they have or are in the process of revamping their finishing systems to comply with air quality standards. "Environmental issues could have a significant effect on many manufacturers," said Lautzenhiser.

Gordon Mullens, president of Gordon's Cabinet Shop, was one of several respondents to cite increased health care premium costs and workmen's compensation insurance increases as major concerns.

Raw material availability and employee skills were also cited as potential problems within the next five years.

Relative to competitive pressures, Bohn said, "The challenges for the next five years include a move to shorter lead times for customers, an emphasis on world class manufacturing and more variety offered to customers by meeting varied price points with upgrades or downgrades."

John Chamberlain, vice president sales and marketing for the St. Charles Co. of Chesapeake, Va., observed that there is a downside to cabinet companies trying to be all things for all people. "As the industry continues to mature, there will be more shake out and consolidation. As product differentiation becomes increasingly more difficult, proprietary products that once commanded significantly higher margins may become commodities. Product demands of consumers today are forcing more and more manufacturers to proliferate their offerings, causing an identity crisis among some manufacturers."

Gordy Gahm, national marketing director for Kitchen Kompact, said, "The big challenge of the kitchen cabinet industry is holding the line on prices. Companies have to find their niche and stop trying to be everything for everybody. Our company has only had one 5 percent increase over the last five years. The industry as a whole is losing sight of how to control pricing."

PHOTO : Marsh Furniture Co. joins the no-frame revolution with the introduction of its Whitehouse line of bath vanities and kitchen cabinets.

PHOTO : Timberlake, an American Woodmark Co., introduced the Windsor Honey collection of semi-custom cabinets at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show last month in Dallas. It features oak raised panel styling with full overlay doors.

PHOTO : Wellborn Cabinets Inc. added a new paint room and CNC router to get the ball rolling on its Monaco series, featuring Roman arch design with white enamel finish.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Vance Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Christianson, Rich
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:May 1, 1991
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