PLAINVILLE, CT -- The Great Recession took a toll on Connecticut woodworking plant Modern Woodcrafts, but the company sees things turning around and revenues rising.
The 55 year-old company manufactures fixtures and the interiors of many high end retail stores including Tiffany's, Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss and Lux Bond. When 2008's recession came, it hit retail hard.
Stores put renovation on hold, and when they did, they used less expensive materials: laminate instead of veneer, veneer instead of solid wood. Spending on interior renovations by retail owners dropped an estimated 25-40%.
Modern Woodcrafts set a goal of $15 million in sales last year, but the effects of the recession could still be felt, and sales reached only $10 million. This year, the company is ahead of schedule to realize $15 million.
Modern Woodcrafts President Lisa Fekete told the Hartford Courant making it through those lean years, "Our reputation was one that upheld itself. We became that high-end fixture manufacturer."
The company has relied on technology, most of which is computer driven, including a panel cutter that can cut a 4x8 ft. piece of plywood or particleboard into precise pieces that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
A new sander can smooth pieces up to 5 ft. wide. Painting and lacquering are automated, while a large fan speeds the drying process. In the future, more machinery and robots will keep static or lower the amount of labor needed.
Fekete (below) said today's customers want more metal, acrylic and glass, and less wood. "It's ironic. Wood is more sustainable than metal or glass," she said. Since wood has become more expensive, clients want reconstituted vaneers, made of wood pulp and dyes that look like wood but are cheaper, renewable andd more consistent in color and grain. High-gloss white lacquer has become a popular finish, and many customers incorporate tech devices in the fixtures, such as iPads or TV monitors that may show product manufacturing processes or the history of the company.
Fakete believes that if they could distribute work over 12 months and avoid having a soft first quarter, they could grow 5 to 10 percent a year without adding capacity.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.