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Cindy Hodnett

Stanton to stop shipping to Calif.

PORTLAND, Ore. - Stanton Furniture will no longer ship to California, citing increasing costs and pending changes to California flame retardant regulations for upholstered furniture.
     "The decision to leave California was a difficult decision, but one that we believe will allow us to better serve the core customer that our business was founded to serve," said Nathan Hagglund, co-owner of Stanton. "We have tailored our business to meet the needs of independent retailers in the Pacific Northwest."
     He said California accounts for less than 5% of Stanton's business. He added that the debate and potential legislation surrounding flame retardant guidelines, and possible higher manufacturing costs that changes could lead to, played a role in the company's decision.
     "In reviewing the changes to California's FR standards, both pending and proposed, we realized that we could greatly simplify our business, cut costs and avoid pending increases if we exit the California market and focus on our core customer base," Hagglund said.
     The debate over the use of flame retardants was renewed in May after a Chicago Tribune series documented inconsistencies in flammability testing guidelines as well as in the testimony of a burn surgeon on behalf of an organization that was found to be supported by companies that produce FR chemicals, which currently are added to furniture foam to meet the burn standards.
     California state officials are considering changing the FR rules to limit or eliminate the chemicals, which could require the use of fire-safe fabric barriers - potentially adding to the cost of manufacturing upholstery.
     Bobby Watson, president of Hoot Judkins Furniture in Redwood City, Calif., said that Stanton's decision is upsetting.
     "We have drastically reduced the price on our floor samples to clear out the inventory. When a customer asks why, we do our best to explain that the manufacturer, Stanton, does not wish to conform to the pending California legislation. Most customers have then had negative comments about California's bureaucracy," Watson said in an email.
     He said most consumers aren't aware of pending changes in FR rules, but "many people want chemical- free, American-made products. This presents a significant challenge to us."
     Watson said that he has been disappointed that Stanton officials didn't respond to his emails expressing how upset he was with the shipping cutoff.
     "We like to think that we work with our suppliers to mutually benefit both of us. It feels as if Stanton has turned its back on its retailers in California," he said.
     Stanton sent a letter to retailers on Sept. 7 saying the company will honor all in-house orders and will take new orders through Oct. 5. Hagglund said Stanton will also continue to service any product sold in California under the company's limited lifetime warranty.
     "Our business has continued to grow over the last three years at a 20% to 30% rate, with a very strong balance sheet and no long-term debt," he said. "We continue to see similar growth this year and want to make sure that we are able to best serve and grow our Northwest customer base. This combined with the fact that California is a small part of our volume contributed to our decision."

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