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Giffin Interior & Fixture: committed to growth.


Before the economic realities of doing business in a recession hit home, Giffin Interior & Fixture Inc. had piled up an impressive growth record. From its humble beginnings in 1980, the Collier Township, Pa., firm grew in leaps and bounds. The 107.9 percent increase Giffin Interior experienced in 1989 when annual sales rose from $4 million to $9 million, placed the company fifth in WOOD & WOOD PRODUCTS 1990 WOOD 100. Last year was the first in which Giffin Interior's sales chart registered a flat course. Considering the extent of economic devastation brought on many New England businesses, company president Gordon Giffin finds solace that his firm was able to hold steady. Giffin said his secret has been diversification.

In addition to serving its main customer base, the high-end retail shop, with store fixture displays, Giffin makes custom architectural and institutional work. The company has been successful, according to Giffin, because of its ability to maximize opportunities, its reputation for delivering high-quality work within deadlines, and its aggressive marketing.

The road to success

Giffin's decisions to start a store fixture manufacturing company in 1980 were two-fold: he enjoyed that type of cabinetwork and he saw an opportunity for growth. Although there were national players in the industry "there wasn't anyone in the area that was really doing it," he said. Within a year the company increased its clientele, outgrew its original garage space and moved into its main production facility in Bridgeville, Pa.

The business thrived not only because it took advantage of an opportune time but because it provided quality custom products. Giffin has always been adamant about the quality of his company's products in the marketplace and has established a "good reputation for the quality of custom work we do." If a problem does occur, added Giffin, "We stand on our heads to make our customers happy." Giffin's good name has enabled the company to cover 75 percent of the local stores as well as retail shops in West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, New York and Indiana. Its showcases, display fixtures and casework, furthermore, are shipped and installed nationally.

Giffin's staff, facilities and equipment have been designed to promote and accommodate growth. One of Giffin's most valuable assets its staff. Giffin employs approximately 40 shop workers including cabinet builders, laminators, laborers, and finishers. The finishers, who work the most critical area of production, are self-taught. Giffin, in addition, employs a pool of installers to ensure that the fixtures are installed properly and efficiently. Giffin also credits his office personnel for their "overall professionalism." Futhermore, Giffin said he frequently hires salesmen and estimators to maintain the company's aggressive marketing stance.

Giffin has enjoyed solid sales increases almost every year and the manufacturing facilities and machinery have expanded accordingly. From 1987 to 1990 the plant size went from 6,000 square feet to 35,000 square feet and the company added machinery in every department, including saws, sanders, laminating and finishing equipment. These additions reflect the phenomenal growth between 1988 and 1989.

Making the WOOD 100

Because the firm's sales went up 107.9 percent in 1989, Giffin ranked fifth in the 1990 WOOD 100, a compilation of the hottest growth companies of the U.S. secondary wood products industry. An important factor leading to the tremendous growth included an increase in local market share and an expanded market area. Also, Giffin worked on "quite a few large projects," that year. The company contracted around ten $250,000 projects including a resort, a hospital, and an upscale shopping mall, The Galleria.

Surviving the economy

Despite "a soft retail climate" since the latter half of 1990, Giffin has continued to expand. Early last year, Giffin bought a Wadkin Gazelle five-head moulder and a Foley United profile grinder in opening a moulding shop in nearby Canonsburg, Pa. The company previously bought mouldings from outside firms but saw in-house production as an opportunity to increase its residential sales.

Giffin has also aggressively moved into other markets. Typically, retail makes up 60 percent of the company's work and Giffin can usually account for 10 to 20 projects in production. However, high-end retail is the first area to be curtailed, according to Giffin. "If we weren't diversified, we'd have significant problems right now."

Current projects include building nurse's stations for Penn Hospital and making fixtures for the book store at Penn state. The firm is also fabricating wall units and reception tables. Giffin also worked on Arnold Palmer's workshop, making cases to hold the golf legend's clubs.

Looking towards the future

Although Giffin has diversified, the company does not intend to abandon the retail market. The company is working on a handful of retail projects right now and is continuing to get referrals and repeat business. Additionally, retail "has perked up considerably," said Giffin, compared to the second half of 1990. Moreover, there is a possibility for increased activity prior to the selling season, when stores will want new looks.

Giffin plans to continue its successful practices of taking opportunities, producing quality fixtures, and an aggressive approach. Current production facilities cover more than 42,000 square feet and there are plans to acquire another 20,000 square feet by the end of this year. Also, in keeping with its aggressive marketing techniques, Giffin is working on a promotional video to lure more business.

PHOTO : A Delta model 20 vertical band saw machines a curved piece for the custom oak reception desk.

PHOTO : Giffin has branched out into non-retail areas such as office furniture. Sections of bent oak make up a rounded reception table for Kossman Development.

PHOTO : Last year, Giffin added a moulding plant. Here, strips of poplar, cherry and red oak are cut using a Diehl straight line laser ripsaw before being profiled on a Wadkin five-head moulder.
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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Title Annotation:Giffin Interior & Fixture Inc.
Author:Dunne, Beverly
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Jul 1, 1991
Previous Article:Ligna puts panel processing in the spotlight.
Next Article:The Galleria: a showcase for Giffin's fixture.

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