Wood Television, Radio, Phonograph, and Sewing Machine Cabinets

SIC 2517

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing wood cabinets for radios, television sets, phonographs, and sewing machines.

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. In the 2000s, about 75 percent of the industry's output consisted of television cabinets or cases for television, stereo, or radio combinations. Wooden household furniture accounted for 10 percent of sales, and miscellaneous items comprised the remainder. Nearly 85 percent of the industry's products were sold to radio and television manufacturers.

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, but increased the next year to $498.0 million.

According to Dun and Bradstreet's 2009 Industry Reports, 154 establishments employed 1,853 people in the wood television and radio cabinets in the late 2000s. A majority of the companies that operated in this sector of the furniture industry--88 percent--were small, employing fewer than 25 workers. Total sales reached $293.2 million in 2008. California was the number-one state in terms of revenues, with $192.7 million.

Important firms in the industry included Sound-Craft Systems Inc. of Morrilton, Arkansas. The company made television cabinets, including those for LCD/plasma TVs, as well as lecterns and portable sound systems. In the mid-2000s, the firm had annual sales of about $3 million.

Thomson Crown Wood Products Inc. (Mocksville, North Carolina), a subsidiary of Thomson Multimedia of France, had been an industry leader in the late twentieth century. Founded in 1980, the company also was known as General Electric Co. Crown Wood Products Inc. Its main product was wooden television cabinets. However, Thomson Crown suffered when its main client, RCA, moved production to a plant in Mexico, and by the mid-2000s the company had laid off more than 100 workers and ceased making television cabinets. Competition from molded plastic TV cabinets was also a factor in Thomson Crown's decision to stop production. To compensate, the company moved toward making other wood furniture such as entertainment systems and home office units. The company was put up for sale in 1998.

Various diversified companies also competed in this category, including Kimball International Inc. of Jasper, Indiana. Once well known for its pianos, the company's furniture division made wood furniture and cabinets for the retail, office, and hospitality sectors. Overall sales for Kimball reached $1.2 billion in 2009 with 7,195 employees.

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 and fell further through the early part of the decade to a low of 2,507 in 2004. Total payroll that year was $71.8 million, down from $76.1 million in 2000.

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