Sligh Furniture Co. is phasing out of its Holland manufacturing and its clock business by the end of 2005. Holland employment will be reduced by about 75 people, primarily in the fall. Sligh headquarters including its research, design, engineering, model making, supply chain management, sales, marketing and customer service will remain in Holland. Sligh furniture will continue to be manufactured in plants in Mexico, Philippines, China and Indonesia for distribution through retailers in North America and other countries.
Production at Sligh’s 1201 Industrial Avenue, Holland, Michigan facility will wrap up in September while clock shipments will continue to the end of the year. Sligh warehousing and distribution will continue operating at the Holland location into 2006. Sligh also operates from a warehousing and distribution facility in North Carolina and intends to establish a similar operation in the western United States later this year.
“Sligh was founded in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1880 as a bedroom furniture manufacturer,” said chairman Rob Sligh. “Desks became the company’s principal line of products in the 1930s with the company’s move to Holland. Bedroom furniture was phased out altogether by 1957. When colleges built dormitories for the baby-boomers in the 1960s, dormitory student room furniture became a main line for the company. Sligh purchased Trend Clock Company in 1968. As dormitory student room furniture demand faded in the 1970s, clocks grew rapidly, taking up the slack. Home office furniture has been a company growth engine since the early 1990s. Sligh entered the home entertainment furniture business in 2002.”
“Grandfather clocks are not the growth market they once were and the economics are not there for us to continue in that business beyond the end of 2005,” said Sligh. “Only about 15% of our furniture is made in Holland. So when we stop producing clocks, we’ll also stop producing furniture in Holland. After 2005, our focus will be on home office, home entertainment furniture and other growing home furniture categories.”
“125 years ago wood home furniture production shifted from the eastern United States to the Grand Rapids area. The attraction was lower labor rates, abundant timber and access to the burgeoning west,” said Sligh. “By the 1920s, depleted timberlands and rising labor rates in the Grand Rapids area encouraged a shift south to North Carolina and Virginia. A handful of companies, including Sligh, stayed in West Michigan and became known for furniture of the highest quality.”
“Wood home furniture is labor intensive,” Sligh continued. “That’s why wood home furniture production has always gravitated to lower labor rate regions. In recent years, wood home furniture shifted from manufacturing in the southern United States to manufacturing in countries like China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam and Brazil. Today, most wood home furniture sold in the U.S. is made outside of the U.S.”
“These changes are difficult for all of us at Sligh since they’re impacting us at a personal level. We’ve worked together for many years and when we stop some of our operations, it means some of us aren’t going to work together anymore. It’s very difficult to say to some of the really wonderful people who have been part of Sligh that there are no longer jobs available for them, despite trying for the last few years to find a way to keep all Sligh employees working. It’s been tough,” Sligh admitted. “All of us have a lot of pride in the high quality of clocks and furniture we’re producing in Holland. We’re determined to make the products we produce this year our best quality ever.”
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