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Survey Finds Room for Improvement

Leading manufacturers of store fixtures and architectural woodwork tell Wood & Wood Products they expect business to improve in 1997.

Whether they consider themselves to be storte fixture manufacturers, architectural woodworkers or both, a vast majority of the 34 companies included in Wood & Wood Products' 10th annual survey look for business to improve in 1997 over the "OK" year that most say they experienced in 1996.

Seventy-two percent of responding companies, whose 1996 sales totaled in excess of $808 million, told W&WP that they expect to generate "greater" business this year than last, with an additional 19 percent indicating they expect about the same level of business and 9 percent expecting a decline.

Companies that specialize in the manufacture of store fixtures are the most optimistic, with 80 percent saying they expect "greater" business in 1997. In comparison, 62.5 percent of the companies that specialize in architectural woodworking look for their businesses to improve in 1997, while 72 percent of companies that do both look for greater success in 1997.

Reflecting on business activity in 1996, 53 percent of the companies called it "OK," with 25 percent pronouncing business as "very good, 19 percent as "best year ever" and 3 percent at "poor."

Diversified companies that consider themselves both manufacturers of store fixtures and architectural woodwork indicated that 1996 was a better year than companies specializing in one or the other type of work. Fifty-eight percent of the companies that do both proclaimed 1996 to be either "very good" or the "best year ever" for their firm. In comparison, 40 percent of the store fixture specialists dubbed 1996 as "very good" or "best year ever" and 25 percent of the architectural woodwork specialists labeled 1996 as "very good" or "best year ever."

Lumped together, 44 percent of the responding companies said they considered 1996 to be "very good" or "best year ever." This pronouncement is down from the 57 percent who thought 1995 was better than "OK" in last year's W&WP's Survey of Leading Architectural Woodwork & Store Fixture Manufacturers.

Tying the past to the present, 71 percent of the companies who called 1996 "very good" or their "best year ever" are hopeful of generating even greater business in 1997.

For the second consecutive year, "price cutting" was identified as the issue of gravest concern. (See the "Top Concerns" table on page 53.) Thirty-three percent of respondents said they are "extremely" concerned about price cutting, up from 24 percent in last year's survey. An additional 39 percent said they are "very" concerned about price cutting. Only 3 percent (down from 10 percent in 1996) said they are a "little" concerned about competitive pricing.

What's more, 36 percent said they are "more" concerned about price cutting this year than they were one year ago. No one said they were "less" concerned.

As one 1997 respondent put it, "Price cutting by competitors was a major hurdle for the industry as a whole through 1996, particularly the latter half."

Also consistent with last year's survey, government regulations ran second among issues of concern. Like last year, 18 percent of respondents said they are "extremely" concerned about government regulatory activities aimed at manufacturers, such as wood finishing rules.

This year's third top concern, employee skills, was the fifth top concern last year.

Larry Adams, Rich Christianson, Margie Melaniphy,
Albert Papandreou and Karen Koenig contributed to this report.





1 Ontario Store Fixtures, Weston, Ont., Canada $216 million
2 Hamilton Fixture, Cincinnati, OH $76 million
3 Oklahoma Fixture Co., Tulsa, OK $75 million
4 Store Kraft Mfg. Co., Beatrice, NE $40 million
5 Monarch Ind., Providence, RI $30.1 million
6 Imperial Woodworking, Palatine, IL $27 million
7 Russell William Ltd., Odenton, MD $25 million
8 Tarrant Interiors, Ft. Worth, TX $25 million
9 Rodgers-Wade Mfg., Paris, TX $23 million
10 Valley City Mfg. Co., Dundas, Ont., Canada $20 million
11 Parenti & Raffaelli, Mt. Prospect, IL $19.7 million
12 Environments Inc., Minnetonka, MN $18.9 million
13 Famous Fixtures, Sun Prairie, Wi $18 million
14 Mielach/Woodwork, Edison, NJ $17 million
14 Midhattan Woodworking, Old Bridge, NJ $17 million
14 Abrams Fixture Corp., Atlanta, GA $17 million
17 Standard Cabinet Works, Los Angeles, CA $16 million
17 Rimi Woodcraft Corp., New York, NY $16 million
17 Hird/Blaker Inc., Bronx, NY $16 million
17 T.J. Hale Co., Menomonee Falls, WI $16 million
21 Modern Woodcrafts, Farmington, CT $15.8 million
22 Bernhard Woodwork, Northbrook, IL $14 million
23 Parisi Inc., Philadelphia, PA $12.5 million
24 Millrock Inc., Sanford, ME $12 million
25 Giffin Interior & Fixture, Bridgeville, PA $11.3 million





From new projects to new plants, 1996 brought many changes for the Top 25 architectural woodworkers and store fixture manufacturers. Here are some highlights.

* North America's largest store fixture maker, Ontario Stores Fixtures, Weston, ONT, became a public company in 1996 with its stocks listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

* Hamilton Fixture (#2) of Cincinnati, OH, built a 320,000-square-foot building allowing the company to consolidate its assembly and distribution operations.

* In 1996, Providence, RI-based Monarch Ind. (#5) completed a $5 million casino project, shop drawings to installation, in 20 weeks. In the spring of 1997, the company will be 100 percent operational in its new 337,000-square-foot facility.

* In 1996, Palatine, IL-based Imperial Woodworking Co. (#6) completed large projects in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. In 1997, it plans to overhaul its business software and add new computer estimating and job costing software.

* In addition to being featured in Wood & Wood Products (January 1997), Tarrant Interiors (#8) of Fort Worth, TX, added a new CNC router, edgebander and large paint booth. In 1997, Tarrant plans to add two panel saws and a manufacturing software system.

* In January 1997, Paris, TX-based Rodgers-Wade Mfg. Co. (#9) was purchased by Leggett & Platt.

* Dundas, ONT-based Valley City Mfg. Co. Ltd. (#10) garnered its largest contract ever, a federal courthouse in Portland, OR. The company had record sales in 1995 and 1996, and it says in 1997 it plans to place an emphasis on courthouse projects.

* Parenti & Raffaelli Ltd. (#11) of Mt. Prospect, IL, won its largest contract ever in 1996. It also made a major purchase in its shop and automated its estimating department.

* Environments Inc. (#12) of Minnetonka, MN, built a 68,000-square-foot manufacturing, finishing and warehousing facility near its existing plant.

* Sun Prairie, WI-based Famous Fixtures (#13) entered into an alliance with a West Coast firm to gain entry into that market. In 1997, the company plans to do 12 percent of its volume on the West Coast, and plans to ship to the Far East from this facility. The company is anticipating entering into a partnership with an East Coast concern. The company plans to have record shipments in 1997.

* Mielach/Woodwork (#14) of Edison, NJ, installed a computer network that links its New Jersey and Illinois offices.

* Midhattan Woodworking Corp. (#14) of Old Bridge, NJ, completed three projects in 1996.

* Atlanta, GA-based Abrams Fixture Corp. (#14) completed the "reengineering" of its organization including the purchase of equipment and the reworking of plant flow. In the fall of 1997, the company plans to move into new facilities.

* Los Angeles-based Standard Cabinet Works (#17) completed showcases in five Bloomingdales' stores and high-end woodwork at a Lawry's restaurant. It opened sales offices in Las Vegas to service the gaming industry. In 1997, the firm plans work on a hotel and casino and will purchase a panel saw and machining center.

* Hird/Blaker (#17) of the Bronx, NY, completed a $3 million project at a corporate banking headquarters. (See page 56.)

* T. J. Hale (#17) of Menomonee Falls, WI, completed four West Coast Bloomingdales' stores and 23 Kohl's stores. In 1997, it plans to purchase systems software and a CNC router/machining center.

* Bernhard Woodwork Ltd. (#22) of Northbrook, IL, completed several large-long term projects in 1996, most notably an eight-story renovation of Marshall Field's Water Tower Place department store in Chicago. In 1997, the company plans on doubling the size of its Northbrook, IL, facility. It will add machinery, revamp its assembly area and add an automated finishing system.

* Sanford, ME-based Millrock Inc. (#24) combined its purchasing and production planning and scheduling departments into one department. It moved to a team production system. In 1997, it is expanding its facility by 40,000 square feet.

* Giffin Interiors & Fixture Inc. (#25) of Bridgeville, PA, consolidated its office operations. It plans to complete a 5,500-square-foot addition for machining and will add a panel saw, machining center, edgebander, dowel inserter, cash clamp, bar coding and other software. It also plans to establish a journeyman training program and continue computerizing its company.


* Hollywood Woodwork Inc. of Hollywood, FL, together with its joint venture partner, produced the architectural woodwork for the Federal Courthouse in Minneapolis, a $5 million project.

* Meyer & Lundahl Mfg. Co. of Phoenix, AZ, continued modernizing with the addition of a new panel saw. It also reworked its space and implemented "V" grooving.

* Principle Fixture & Millwork of Wyoming, MN, introduced a work team concept in its production area in 1996. It also updated it CAD system. For 1997 the company has plans to add software and bar coding, purchase a point-to-point machine, rework its finishing line and improve its team concept.

* Woodmasters Design & Mfg. Corp. of Addison, IL, formed a new national millwork installation company and leased a 10,000-square-foot building. In 1997, the company anticipates 25 percent growth, more architectural millwork projects, and more expansion into computers and computerized machining.

* Darling Store Fixtures (not ranked because it did not supply sales figures), of Paragould, AR, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 1997. Last year Darlington completed several major projects including a project involving more than 40 wireless communications carriers nationwide. It also designed and manufactured wood and metal kiosks that the carriers purchased for placement and staffing in leased space in 1,230 Wal-Mart stores throughout the U.S.

Darling's parent company, L.A. Darling Co., began the year with the purchase of two Brazilian companies: Eletrofrio S.A., a supplier of retail store equipment, and Compass Ltda., Eletrofio's international trading company.

* ISEC of Colorado Springs, CO, became International Woodwork Corp. toward the end of 1996. The company in essence changed its focus to a job shop, a company spokesman said.

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