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  • Jerry Epperson

Stanley held on longer than most U.S. sources

Jerry Epperson An insider’s viewJerry Epperson An insider’s view
There was no joy in Stanleytown, Va., in mid-May when Stanley Furniture announced it would be phasing out production of case goods at its largest factory there, and would source its adult furniture overseas.
     Lots of U.S. manufacturers have closed production facilities over the last decade, so how is this different?
     First, unlike so many others that phased out production gradually, knowing they would move lines overseas, Stanley has continually spent money on its manufacturing systems, technology, equipment and processes to stay as efficient as possible. Few others have spent on their factories like Stanley has.
     Second, it did not import collections of furniture to compete with its domestic production, as most have. It imported the most easily sourced items, and matched them with U.S.-made cases - creating a blended strategy that has worked successfully for many years. In fact, it allowed Stanley to offer multiple finishes and other options, and a rapid delivery in whatever quantities were required.
     Third, Stanley did not offer a broad array of prices like most factories. Over the years, the company has created high-style at upper-medium prices, leading it to become the high-end for many mid-priced stores and the entry level price point for high-end stores.
     In addition, it was an early major player in youth, electronic cabinetry and home office, bringing style along with quality furniture to all these growth categories.
     Stanley has been able to achieve success with a myriad of owners, beginning with Mead Paper in the 1960s, progressing to several private equity and corporate owners, and going public twice.
     Throughout these changes, a constant was sound management, led since the 1970s by Albert Prillaman. Of all his talents, one key was his ability to attract top people. Albert, helped by perhaps the best chief financial officer in our industry, Doug Payne, always had top sales, production and product people. Many have left Stanley and have been very successful, like Phil Haney, who has restored Lexington to its former success.
     Stanley will continue to manufacture its Young America collection in North Carolina, offering many finishes and custom elements.
     Stanley, once one of many Henry County, Va., furniture manufacturers including Bassett, Hooker, American of Martinsville, Gravely, Martinsville Novelty, Bassett Mirror, Pulaski and others, was the last one actually manufacturing wood furniture.
     Stanley is a survivor, and we are certain its current plan to join so many others as an importer of adult bedroom will succeed. But someone needs to write a book about its rich history and its long efforts to keep Stanleytown in the fight.

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