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Bulova to buy Sligh clock designs

Jeff Linville -- Furniture Today, August 15, 2005

Watch and clock specialist Bulova is acquiring the intellectual property rights to Sligh's clock business.

Sligh said in May it would be discontinuing its floor and mantel clock line at the end of the year. Now, Bulova is set to purchase the Sligh design library as well as its database of information about customers and suppliers.

"Our agreement with Sligh gives us an opportunity to create an improved and expanded clock division," said Bulova President and CEO Herbert Hofmann. "We plan to work closely with Sligh during the transition, carefully analyzing their product with the goal of presenting a line that reflects the best of both companies."

Founded in 1875, Bulova says it's the only company to offer every type of timepiece from wristwatches to grandfather clocks, following its acquisition of a Canadian floor clock business in 2002.

Some have questioned how committed Bulova is to developing its clock division, but Tom Fosorile, senior vice president of sales, said, "We're serious. We don't dabble."

The company hopes this latest move shows the furniture industry just how serious it is, Fosorile added.

Developing pieces off Sligh's designs probably will allow Bulova to offer new styles and price points from what it has offered so far, Fosorile said. The company will look at the designs and its own line and try to offer a portfolio of the best of both.

With Sligh ceasing clock production, the company might have some equipment at its domestic plant in Holland, Mich., that Bulova could use. Fosorile said Bulova would be looking into this.

For Sligh, "Providing a smooth transition and continued clock customer support was an important goal," said Rob Sligh, president, CEO and chairman. "This agreement with Bulova ensures ongoing support for our clock customers in 2006 and beyond."

Under the agreement, Bulova will extend its sales and marketing resources to Sligh's current customers. Sligh will continue to provide any necessary service or repairs on Sligh clocks.

While Bulova is acquiring Sligh's designs, the new clocks will not bear Sligh's name, since that company continues to operate in other categories.

Sligh said the company is developing a "boatload of new products" in categories such as home entertainment, occasional and home office.

Sligh is closing its factory in Holland this September and switching to a fully sourced line.

The company already had been sourcing 85% of its home office, home entertainment and occasional from Mexico, the Philippines, China and Indonesia, according to Sligh.

Last year, Pulaski Furniture sold its Ridgeway clock line and manufacturing plant to Howard Miller. With Sligh's shift, Howard Miller becomes the only major floor clock producer in the United States.

Clocks are a tough business, said one executive. They have to be wound every week and need a technician to fix them if something goes wrong, so many furniture retailers don't want to bother. And clock specialty stores don't get the consumer respect or traffic that a furniture store does.

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