The kitchen and bath industry has always been something of a tight-knit community, with myriad connections that flow between dealers and designers, manufacturers, reps, consumers and the community at large. Go to enough industry events and it seems like everyone knows everyone, or at least everyone knows someone who knows whatever someone you want to meet in this industry. The design industry may be more global than ever, but it’s still a small town in many ways.
In fact, you often hear kitchen and bath design professionals liken the industry to a family (albeit a large, spread-out one), with each facet of the industry touching other facets, all interwoven into an amazing web of people who work together to create the designs, products and spaces that define homes.
Usually, that’s a good thing.
Sometimes, though, interconnectivity also means interdependence. So when one house falls, the impact is felt a hundredfold.
That was the case last month when the 77-year-old Wood-Mode abruptly closed its doors, causing a ripple effect that has stretched from coast to coast, and from dealers to manufacturers to reps to consumers (see related story).
The Pennsylvania-based company, which was among the first to pioneer the custom cabinet door, revolutionized the cabinet industry in many ways, not only through its products, but through its intensive designer training programs. Employing nearly 1,000 people with an average tenure of 20+ years, Wood-Mode was one of the largest employers in the region, with husbands and wives and even multiple generations on its payroll. So it’s no surprise that the sudden closure was devastating to both the employees and the area.
But the impact of the closure rings well beyond just the Wood-Mode offices, or even the community at large.
Scores of Wood-Mode showrooms across the country filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cabinet displays suddenly find their worth in question, leaving owners stunned and struggling to get answers as to what, if anything, can be done.
Dealers who sold these cabinet lines, even non-exclusively, are suddenly finding themselves unable to fulfill orders and, at best, this will delay projects, add costs and strain relationships with clients. At worst, some may be driven out business, unable to stay afloat long enough to find new lines, get new displays in and begin the process of rebranding their businesses.
Companies that supplied cabinet components and hardware to Wood-Mode will be similarly affected. For those that had unpaid receivables, that money may be difficult or impossible to recoup. And companies that derived a large part of their business from supplying components and hardware to Wood-Mode will need to quickly find new sources of income, or could be forced to shut their doors.
Many consumers, too, will be devastated to find out that the kitchens they’ve been waiting for quite possibly aren’t coming. In some cases, they were all ready to ship when the factory doors were locked, or worse, they’re stuck on a truck and the drivers can’t deliver them.
Right now, industry sentiment spans the gamut from sadness to anger to bewilderment, while others still hope for a White Knight to come along and save the day in the form of a surprise buyer, or cash infusion.
Some dealers and designers are even rethinking whether representing a single line is the smartest way to do business…or at least trying to strategize a backup plan should they ever end up in the same situation.
Perhaps the only silver lining to this tragedy has been watching the kitchen and bath industry come together to help, posting jobs, sharing resources and, in some cases, forging unlikely partnerships to help those impacted by the closure. It’s a reminder that, while even mighty businesses sometimes fail, the design community’s greatest strength remains its people.
There’s no doubt that the ripple effects of this closure will be felt for a long time. Hopefully, though, the ripple effects of support from this close-knit industry will be just as strong, and will help to strengthen the kitchen and bath professionals and businesses struggling to move forward. ▪