Stanley Furniture announced yesterday it would cease production of its Young America nursery furniture line by the end of April, shuttering its Robbinsville, NC factory and throwing 400 employees out of work.
A report in the Winston Salem Journal called the decision “stunning,” considering Stanley had trumpeted the made in the USA pedigree for Young America:
“We have decided to cease manufacturing operations in Robbinsville,” said Glenn Prillaman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “After a thorough review of both our own operations and the current marketplace for nursery and youth furniture, management and the Board concluded that the Young America business could not achieve an acceptable level of revenue within an adequate time frame to assure sustainable profitability and has decided that it is time for our company to focus its efforts on our profitable and growing Stanley brand,” continued Prillaman.
Young America said it will honor orders placed on or before April 28, 2014.
Young America’s exit from the high-end nursery market comes on the heels of two other major brands that also quit the market in the past year, Creations and Boori. All these brands have been hit by a decline in the number of specialty stores that target the higher end of the nursery market—major retailers like Lone Star Baby in Dallas and Goore’s in Sacramento were both major Young America dealers, now gone.
Young America also suffered from self-inflicted wounds, including shipping delays in 2013 the company blamed on a faulty computer system. The company also stuck with a strategy of selling its goods only in specialty stores, despite the decline in the number of specialty stores over the years. The company largely missed out on the ecommerce boom for nursery furniture. And while most furniture brands like Munire and Baby Appleseed also sell their wares in chains like Buy Buy Baby in addition to specialty stores, Young America stuck with a non-chain strategy.
Founded in 1924, Stanley Furniture entered the nursery furniture market in 2003 under the Young America moniker. The brand was first produced in China and then moved to the USA in 2009.
The decision to move production to the USA in 2009 was hailed at the time as a game changer for the brand. Stanley had invested $9 million on upgrading and automating the Robbinsville planet, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. Nursery furniture represented about 40% of Stanley’s overall sales, which in 2013 totaled $96.9 million. Operating losses deepened to $10.2 million in 2013 from $6.6 million in 2012.
Compared to other high-end nursery furniture brands competing in the $1000 crib market, Young America failed to establish a compelling market niche. While competitors like Romina touted its solid wood furniture and Munire/Echelon relied on its stylized, architectural designs, Young America was more plain vanilla. The brand emphasized its furniture’s “built to grow” flexibility—numerous accent pieces that could transform a nursery into a child and then teenager’s room. Yet the numerous color finishes (20 at last count) couldn’t make up for the fact that the company’s basic styling was rather plain. In essence, Young America was trying to sell Toyota Camrys at BMW prices—it just didn’t work.