SIC 2542

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing office and store fixtures, shelving, storage racks, lockers, and related fabricated products, chiefly of materials other than wood. This industry also includes prefabricated partitions if they are designed to be attached to the floor; those designed to be free-standing or part of an office furniture panel system are instead classified in SIC 2522: Office Furniture, Except Wood. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing refrigerated cabinets, showcases, or display cases are classified in SIC 3585: Air-Conditioning and Warm Air Heating Equipment and Commercial and Industrial Refrigeration Equipment. Companies engaged in manufacturing safes and vaults are classified in SIC 3499: Fabricated Metal Products, Not Elsewhere Classified.

NAICS Code(s)

337215 (Showcase, Partition, Shelving, and Locker Manufacturing)

Industry Snapshot

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in the late 1990s a total of 31 establishments manufactured nonwood prefabricated partitions as their primary product; 45 manufactured nonwood shelving and lockers as their primary product; 91 manufactured mainly nonwood storage racks and accessories; and 299 manufactured mainly nonwood fixtures for stores, banks, offices, and other uses.

Overall, 926 establishments made nonwood partitions and fixtures (not necessarily as their primary business) in the late 1990s. They shipped $5.2 billion worth of goods and spent $2.3 billion on materials. This was a thriving industry, due in part to an increased demand for unique store fixtures to showcase products for the burgeoning retail sector of the U.S. economy.

Organization and Structure

More than 1,800 companies in the United States were engaged in the manufacture of metal shelving, partitions, and fixtures for commercial and residential use during the mid-1990s. About 62 percent of these operations had fewer than 20 employees. Nearly 80 percent of the manufacturers in this category posted sales of less than $5 million in the mid-1990s.

Background and Development

The growth of the metal partitions and fixtures industry in the United States was directly related to both the expansion of the retail segment of the economy and the development of new technology. After World War II, America's rapidly growing suburbs fueled the construction of large retail outlets such as supermarkets and shopping centers, which increased the demand for shelving and other fixtures. At the same time new manufacturing processes made it possible to craft fixtures and partitions from lightweight metal alloys to replace the standard wood fixtures. Metal shelves, cases, garment racks, and other products appealed to retailers because they were affordable and could be moved easily.

Demand for nonwood shelving and fixtures slumped in the early 1990s due to a recession but subsequently increased again. The highly competitive retail market and steady growth of the economy encouraged merchants to invest in new store fixtures to keep their product displays attractive and up to date.

Customization was a key word for retailers seeking a distinctive look to set them apart from their competitors. Flexibility was also important because few businesses were interested in buying fixtures that could not be moved or changed to accommodate different kinds of displays inventory. Metal wire emerged as a particular favorite because of its high-tech look. Combinations of wire and other materials (mostly wood and plexiglass) were also popular. This was due in part to the fact that metal products tended to cost less than wood because they could be manufactured quickly and efficiently, often on automated assembly lines.

Wire and wire combination products were also popular among residential customers for shelving, storage components, and fixtures. These products were often used in closets, kitchens, baths, laundries, and garages and were available at various retail outlets. They offered a less expensive alternative to similar wood and laminated wood products, which appealed to a more upscale market.

Current Conditions

In the late 1990s the industry shipped $1.17 billion worth of shelving and lockers; $1.9 billion worth of fixtures for stores, banks, offices, and other uses; $1.1 billion worth of storage racks and accessories; and $277.0 million worth of prefabricated partitions. Alabama and Illinois led in the production of shelving and lockers. California, Illinois, and Minnesota led in the production of fixtures. Michigan, Ohio, California, and Illinois led in the production of storage racks and accessories. New York and Ohio led in the production of prefabricated partitions.

Although total industry shipments (for both wood and nonwood products) fell from $8.52 billion in 1998 to $8.35 billion in 1999, they rebounded to $8.66 billion in 2000. Similarly, the number of industry employees dropped from 75,325 in 1998 to 74,771 in 1999, before climbing to 75,924 in 2000.

Industry Leaders

One of the largest firms whose primary business fell into this category was Hoffman Engineering Co. (a subsidiary of Pentair Inc. based in Anoka, Minnesota) with 2,250 employees and sales of $310 million in 1998. Interlake Material Handling Div. (a subsidiary of Interlake Corp. based in Naperville, Illinois) had 1,100 employees and sales of $200 million. Madix Inc. (Terrell, Texas) had 1,600 employees and sales of $170 million. L.A. Darling Co. (a subsidiary of Marmon Group Inc. based in Paragould, Arkansas) had 2,700 employees and sales of $165 million. Its subsidiary, Darling Store Fixtures, had 2,000 employees and sales of $125 million. Falcon Products Inc. (Olivette, Missouri) had 4,440 employees and sales of approximately $143 million. Lozier Corp. (Omaha, Nebraska) had 1,400 employees and sales of $140 million. Lee/Rowan Co. (a subsidiary of Newell Co. based in Fenton, Missouri) had 1,500 employees and sales of $120 million. RHC/Spacemaster Corp. (Melrose Park, Illinois) had 900 employees and estimated sales of $105 million. Stanley Storage Systems Inc. (a subsidiary of Stanley Works based in Allentown, Pennsylvania) had 500 employees and sales of $100 million.


In 1977 about 28,000 people were employed in this industry. In 1987, 33,500 were employed, and in 1995, 36,900. By the late 1990s the 926 establishments that made nonwood partitions and fixtures employed 44,464 people, including 34,356 production workers who earned an average hourly wage of $11.84. The 466 establishments whose primary business was in this category employed 38,819 people, including 30,805 production workers who earned an average hourly wage of $11.81.

Further Reading

Applefeld, Catherine. "Fixture Manufacturers Keep Up with Retailers to Stay Up-to-Date." Billboard, 16 September 1995.

"Customization Enhances Retailer Identity." Chain Store Age Executive with Shopping Center Age, July 1996.

Darnay, Arsen J., ed. Manufacturing USA. 5th ed. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 1996.

"Fixture Flexibility Is Key: Trend Toward Modular, Customized Units." Chain Store Age Executive with Shopping Center Age, October 1995.

Gill, Penny. "Showers of Bath Storage Lines." HFN: The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network, 13 January 1997.

Hill, Dawn. "Lee/Rowan Targets Mass Retailers." HFN: The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network, 22 January 1996.

Hill, Dawn. "Schulte Adds Wood Laminate." Discount Store News, 7 August 1995.

Hill, Dawn. "Taming the Last Frontier: Garages," HFN: The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network, 13 January 1997.

Sellers, Pamela. "Kitchen Storage on the Rise." HFN: The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network, 13 January 1997.

United States Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufacturers. February 2002. Available from .

U.S. Department of Commerce. Census Bureau. 1997 Economic Census. Washington, DC: GPO, 1999. Available from .

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