This category covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing wood cabinets for radios, television sets, phonographs, and sewing machines.
337129 (Wood Television, Radio, and Sewing Machine Cabinet Manufacturing)
This industry makes such products as wooden speaker boxes, stereo cabinets, sewing machine cases, and television cabinets. It is part of the larger household furniture industry. About 60 percent of the industry's output consists of television cabinets or cases for television, stereo, or radio combinations. Stereo and radio cabinets constitute 20 percent of the market. Wooden sewing machine cases account for only 3 percent of sales, and miscellaneous items comprise the remainder. Nearly 85 percent of the industry's products are sold to radio and television manufacturers.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that there were 98 establishments operating in this classification in the late 1990s. In 2001, they shipped goods worth $475 million, spent $137 million on materials, and paid $4.8 million for buildings and other structures, machinery, and equipment. About a third of these establishments had at least 20 employees. California and New York had the highest concentrations of businesses in this category.
A limited market existed for sewing machine cases and radio cabinets early in the twentieth century. Not until after World War II did the U.S. wooden cabinet business emerge as a small industry. A consumer spending boom, boosted by a surging demand for television cabinets beginning in the 1950s, resulted in healthy industry growth throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and much of the 1970s. By the early 1980s television and radio cabinet producers were shipping products worth more than $300 million per year and employing about 7,000 workers.
Although sales swelled to nearly $400 million in 1984, the market slumped soon afterward, primarily because of foreign competition and the increasing popularity of plastic. As imports of consumer electronics, particularly from Japan, ballooned throughout the 1980s, demand for domestically manufactured television and radio cabinets plummeted. Many U.S. factories switched from wood to cheaper, more versatile plastic cabinets. Wood cabinet sales tumbled at a rate of nearly 9 percent annually between 1984 and 1990, and the industry's
yearly sales dropped below $250 million. Some companies left the industry during an economic recession in the early 1990s.
These issues continued to plague the industry into the late 1990s and early 2000s. Wooden television, radio, phonograph, and sewing machine cabinet shipments declined from $516.3 million in 1997 to $499.2 million in 1999. By 2001, they had fallen another 5 percent to $475.5 million.
Thomson Crown Wood Products Inc. (Mocksville, North Carolina) was one of the largest firms that manufactured goods in this category as its primary business. Founded in 1980, the company was also known as General Electric Co. Crown Wood Products Inc. It had roughly 650 employees and sales of $50 million at the turn of the twenty-first century. Its main product was wooden television cabinets. Another industry leader, Sound-Craft Systems Inc., primarily made lecterns and portable sound systems. Based in Morrilton, Arkansas, the firm had 28 employees and sales of three million dollars.
Various diversified companies also competed in this category, including Kimball International Inc. (Jasper, Indiana) with 2003 sales of $1.1 billion and more than 8,000 employees; O'Sullivan Industries Inc. (Lamar, Missouri) with 2003 sales of $289.2 million and 1,750 employees; and Child Craft Industries Inc. (Salem, Indiana).
To cut costs and increase productivity, the industry's workforce was slashed in the early 1990s to less than half its 1982 size. Total employment dropped from 5,900 in 1987 to 4,300 in 1994 and 3,764 in 1997. By 2000, employment was down to 3,469. The category's 2,992 production workers earned an average hourly wage of $9.95 in 2000. Total payroll that year was $76.1 million, down from $89.8 million in 1994 and $86.9 million in 1997.
Thomson Crown Wood Products Inc. The Architect's Catalog, Inc. Corporate Web site, 2000. Available from http://www.arcat.com .
U.S. Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industry Groups and Industries: 2000." February 2002. Available from http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/m00as-1.pdf .
——. "Value of Shipment for Product Classes: 2001 and Earlier Years." December 2002. Available from http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/m01as-2.pdf .