For many years, sales of the FDM 300 group of companies charged forward, driven mainly by the long-running housing boom and a cabinet sector that was running flat out.

That all changed in late 2006, when sales peaked. After that, sales declined every year, from 2007 to 2011, with the biggest decline (20 percent) in 2008. A year ago we compiled 2011 data and were hopeful that this group would eke out a small gain, but instead these companies recorded a small (about 2 percent) decline in sales.

We’re pleased to report that after five consecutive years of declines in annual sales, the FDM 300 recorded a sales gain of 4 percent in 2012. The largest companies helped pull the overall group into the plus column once again.

We estimated sales for this group of 300 companies in the United States and Canada to be $37.632 in 2012, an increase of 4 percent over sales in 2011, which reached $36.167 billion.

Let me repeat that. Sales for this group of 300 companies actually increased in 2012 compared to 2011. Again, that hasn’t happened since 2006.

“This group” isn’t the same as it was in 2006 as the 300 largest companies are always changing slightly. This year, 11 new companies replaced 11 others that had merged or gone out of business.

If you had looked at the group in any given year, especially 2008, you would expect a major decline in the number of operating companies. That didn’t happen. And it really hasn’t happened in any one year. If you have eight or nine companies going out of business annually (along with a couple of mergers or buyouts -– not common in this industry) you have a success rate of sorts of 97 percent every year.

The FDM 300 is a group of the 300 largest cabinet, furniture, millwork, store fixture, office/contract and component producers in North America. A detailed list of the top 25 companies follows in this issue, along with a summary of all 300 companies. We’ll have several follow-up stories in the coming months. Additional information can be found at www.cabinetmakerfdm.com by clicking on the FDM 300 tab or searching for a specific company.

Largest companies in front

A year ago it was the office and contract sector that was pacing the group.

This time there isn’t a clear winning sector, at least that we could determine. But the larger companies in this group, including Steelcase, Herman Miller, MasterBrand and Haworth, provided much of the lift.

The picture isn’t all good. There were still a number of companies reporting sales declines, although the sales falloffs were small compared to recent years. For some other companies that didn’t provide data we kept the sales number the same. And we continue to hear of struggles with low sales and rising costs.

But this is a positive development , and we hope to see more in the coming year.

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