American design and manufactured furniture has always been recognized as the finest quality and value in the world. When lower priced, imported furniture entered the scene, people sacrificed the highest quality for the lowest price. However, the product began to disappoint, and as a result, people have returned to the tried and true American brands they have always loved. Knowing a product is made in the U.S. has become even more important to Americans since the economic climate shift. People love to know they are “buying American.”
Larry Norris of Norris Home Furnishings, with locations in Naples and Fort Myers, has seen the ebb and flow of the furniture manufacturing business. “At Norris Home Furnishings, we’ve always carried the best American-made furnishings,” states Norris. “We are very pleased to see how the American furniture industry is revamping their manufacturing operations to provide quality materials and craftsmanship at competitive prices in response to the overseas competition.”
“Consequently, much of the craftsmanship that had evolved over generations was lost as assembly line production became the norm. The market for the superior quality, high-end pieces that only American artisans could make was still there, but it became a much smaller niche market,” says Norris.
“For U.S. furniture makers, it became a question of how can we do this here in the States, still have current designs, still be cost effective and be relevant in the current economy?” says Matt Evans, General Manager of Norris Home Furnishings in Naples. “Stickley Furniture is a perfect example. They’ve been in business for over 100 years, and they’re known for their mission style furniture which they re-issued in 1989. Now they also have different styles, including contemporary lacquer finished pieces.”
One thing they did not change is their attention to quality. According to the company’s owner, Aminy Audi, “Over the years we have invested heavily in technology and a 450,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Upstate New York. Our major focus, however, has always been on attracting and nurturing a great team of talented craftsmen who build unparalleled quality furniture which is handed down from generation to generation. Additionally, our proximity to our lumber suppliers in New York State, Ohio and Pennsylvania cuts down the cost of transportation and enables us to offer faster delivery and many more finish choices than products made overseas.”
“Overseas is about price-driven, mass-produced furniture with zero options. Stickley is all about quality and options. They have numerous designs and finishes from which to choose. They’re one of several furniture companies out there that have figured out how to re-invent themselves without compromising their core values,” says Evans.
Adds Audi, “Today we have nearly 1,500 employees, and we are very committed to manufacturing in the U.S. and supporting the local economy. We are proud of the fact that we have never had any layoffs since our family purchased Stickley in 1974. In spite of the recent economic crisis we continue to work two full-time shifts.”
In addition to product diversification, several other factors have driven the American furniture industry’s resurgence. Increased shipping costs, longer delivery time frames that are a result of post 9/11 security considerations, favorable tariffs and consumer demand for higher quality furniture have combined to level the playing field for U.S. furniture makers. More importantly, they have shifted their attention to what today’s market wants.
“American furniture companies still produce the classic, well-crafted traditional product that has been their specialty,” said Evans. “But as we’ve seen over the past 6-to-8 years, they’re also responding to the market with extremely attractive contemporary, transitional, and coastal designs. They’re doing that at a quality level that is reminiscent of what American companies were able to do for years before they became overly reliant on overseas suppliers. Today’s consumer is more sophisticated. They know what they want, and they’re very specific about it. American furniture makers can provide that better than anyone.”