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Moore & Giles staying busy

Moore & Giles’ 60,000-square-footMoore & Giles’ 60,000-square-foot warehouse receives hides from tanneries in Europe, Asia, South America and New Zealand.
FOREST, Va. - Although leather prices remain at historic highs and less expensive b o n d e d leather is grabbing market share by the container load, business isn't slowing down at leather supplier Moore & Giles.
     In fact, those trends appear to be playing into the company's strength - upperend, high-grade leathers that allow its furniture industry customers to make a fashion statement.
     "We look at leather as a fashion business, and we always try to promote the beauty of the leather and all of its natural qualities," said Sackett Wood, president of the 78-year-old company. "We don't see it as a commodity business."
     Wood agrees that bonded leather has all but taken over entry-level price points in most leather sofa lineups, but sees no reason for Moore & Giles to divert from its model of supplying upper-end leathers from tanneries around the globe.
     In the past 20 years, the company has become a key supplier of better-grade leathers by developing strategic relationships with tanneries in Italy, Spain, New Zealand, India and South America, among other places. The company is showing its wares to furniture industry clients at this week's Showtime fabric show in High Point, exhibiting in Suites at Market Square 1-203.
     Wood said that bonded leather - which consists of leather fragments and fibers that are glued, or bonded, onto a backing - "certainly has a role to play in the industry, but it does not play a role in our line. I doubt that customers are going to replace our product with bonded leather."
     Moore & Giles doesn't own any of its source tanneries but it controls a large chunk of the production at several of them. And that, according to
A computer-controlledA computer-controlled machine in Moore & Giles’ Forest, Va., facility cuts leather samples for customers.
Wood, gives the company significant input into the development and finishing of the leathers it buys.
     "We like to deal with people who get up every morning thinking about making beautiful leather," he said. "We are constantly challenging them - and ourselves - to think about new products."
     He said the company's designers monitor fashion trends in the footwear, ready-to-wear and accessories markets to develop product ideas and make fashion statements applicable to the upholstered furniture business.
    The results of their work are stored in a 60,000-square-foot warehouse just outside Lynchburg, Va., where the company was founded in 1933. Many of the hides are shipped there on horses (racks) in air conditioned containers - a process that Wood said doubles shipping costs, but preserves the beauty and integrity of the leather.
     Until the 1980s, the company's primary business was supplying leather to the footwear industry. But as domestic shoe production disappeared and the number of domestic tanneries dwindled, the company began supplying leather for the then-tiny leather upholstery market.
     In the early 1990s, the company embarked on its current strategy of focusing on upperend leather, and the residential furniture industry now accounts for the majority of its revenue.
The company’s shippingThe company’s shipping department packs smaller orders for delivery.
     Don Giles, grandson of the company's founder, is chairman of the board, but Wood and Vice President Tray Petty are now majority owners.
     Moore & Giles also supplies leather for high-end hospitality furniture and private jets, and launched a leather bag and accessories business in 2007.
     The bags and accessories, which are produced at factories in Tennessee, Virginia and the Dominican Republic, are sold largely to high-end men's and women's fashion retailers under the Moore & Giles brand. The lineup includes everything from wallets and card holders retailing for less than $100 to travel bags that retail for $500 and up.
     But despite the success of its other lines of business, Wood said the furniture industry will continue to account for the majority of revenues for the foreseeable future. He believes the industry's fashion leaders will continue to demand high quality leathers for many of their statement products.
     "At the end of the day, the emotional appeal of beautiful leather ... is going to win out," he said.

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