Nobody's talking about imports anymore.

After a decade of growth, sales for the FDM 300 group of companies declined for a second year in a row in 2008. Falling sales in the cabinet and furniture markets caused a big drop in the overall number.

Annual sales for the group of 300 companies was $50.71 billion in 2008, a decline of 10.7 percent from the 2007 figure. That 2007 number was 2 percent smaller than annual sales of this group in 2006. Also, employment for this group continued to fall. (The complete listing starts on  page 16.)

The FDM 300 includes the largest manufacturers of cabinets, furniture, millwork, store fixtures and office and contract furniture in North America.

After years of growth, cabinet sales fell again in 2008, and industry declines may reach 20 percent. Furniture sales continued in a rut, while office/contract sales held up, at least through the first three quarters.

Closings and challenges

Even though we hope to see an economic turnaround later this year, sales data for 2009 is likely to be down for this group. Strong office furniture sales are expected to decline by as much as 12 percent in 2009, and weak retail sales will put a damper on store fixture activity.

Also, much of our data from larger publicly held companies is for their fiscal year, which may have ended in June or September, before the bottom fell out of the economy. Next year's data will reflect the difficult months we have just passed through.

A few notes:  Kohler Co. closed the Canac Kitchens Toronto plant and then shut down the whole Canac cabinet business. Norwalk Furniture Corp. has shut down, and a new company,  Norwalk Custom Order Furniture LLC, has been organized. Morigeau-Lepine is out of business. Sklar-Peppler is not listed.

They've closed their main operation in Canada. Walker Wood Products was acquired and is now Luxe Cabinetry. American Furniture Mfg. Inc. is rebuilding after a major fire in February 2008.

Importer Schandig Furniture was recently acquired by China's Markor International Furniture. Jami Inc. was acquired by  JSJ Corp. This is listed as JSJ Corp./Izzy Design. MII was acquired by  Huck Group, which is listed for the first time.  Nichols & Stone Co. was closed and its assets bought by  Stickley. Douglas Furniture of California LLC has filed Chapter 11.

What was the greatest challenge this year? As Bruce Springsteen once sang in a working class ballad, things were bad "on account of the economy."

We'll look more closely at the challenges and the industry sectors in follow-up reports in the magazine and on 

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