Kitchen & Bath Design News

JUL 2019

Kitchen & Bath Design News is the industry's leading business, design and product resource for the kitchen and bath trade.

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The abrupt closure of Wood-Mode added a chaotic and heartbreaking closing chapter to the decades-long saga of a company long considered the gold standard by which custom-cabinet manufacturers were measured. And while a cloak of uncertainty still lingers over the ultimate fate of the iconic cabinet brand, it's apparent that the closure was likely the product of multiple factors, among them an evolving industry landscape, changing consumer buying patterns, internal forces and a range of nancial challenges likely triggered a decade ago by the recession (see related story, Page ). Long known for its product innovation, quality and craftsmanship, Wood-Mode was among the industry pioneers that ushered in the concept of high-end, one-of- a-kind, custom-designed kitchens that revolutionized the way cabinets were manufactured, marketed and sold. But the same attributes that made Wood-Mode's cab- inetry such a highly regarded staple may also have been among the factors that eventually brought the -year-old, privately held company to its knees. Wood-Mode's highly customized product mix – with its diverse collection of wood species, sophisticated nishes and unique design elements – has always been, by its very nature, costly and challenging to produce. For that reason alone, the company likely struggled to stay competitive with cabinet suppliers who've turned increas- ingly to automation, relying less and less on the time-con- suming, handcrafted artisanship that made Wood-Mode's product line so special. Wood-Mode, some have said, may have also adhered too rigidly to its longtime business model, eschewing new-age eciencies and digital marketing opportuni- ties, while clinging to the belief that designing, pricing and selling kitchens had to be done in the same manner employed for decades. While loyal Wood-Mode dealers may take exception to that – pointing to continued robust sales – there's little argument that evolutionary market changes likely had a corrosive impact on the company. For much of Wood-Mode's lifespan, for example, the line between "custom" and "stock" cabinetry was dis- tinct and easily identiable. Wood-Mode made its mark in the custom niche. Semi-custom cabinetry wasn't a factor at all. In today's market, by contrast, the line between stock and custom cabinetry has all but blurred in the eyes of many. Semi-custom cabinetry, with its wide array of "bells and whistles," has garnered signicant market share. For many consumers, semi-custom – and even stock – is good enough. It's simply not necessary for them to spend extra on custom cabinetry. Many opt instead to allocate resources on countertops, appliances and other products. Still others, working in conjunc- tion with architects and designers, have their cabinetry sourced through local shops. Wood-Mode likely found itself squeezed from both sides. Wood-Mode, to its credit, attempted to address the shifting cabinet landscape through the introduction, in the 's, of its Brookhaven line. But Brookhaven, rather than proving a boon, may well have contributed unwit- tingly to Wood-Mode's demise because, ultimately, it forced Wood-Mode into oering free upgrades in order to keep its higher-priced line viable, no doubt adding costs and eroding margins. With Brookhaven as a lower-priced option, the company in many ways was competing with itself in an increasingly competitive, price-sensitive market also being unsettled by a ood of lower-priced imports, particularly from China. While Wood-Mode targeted a higher-end market niche than that of Chinese-made cabinets, pricing erosion of the kind caused by the imports tends to impact all market segments, shrinking the potential customer base for everyone. But even with those competitive pressures, a lack of sales apparently wasn't the primary issue that precipitated Wood-Mode's seeming demise. Wood-Mode's extensive dealer network has long been considered one of the industry's nest – and, by all accounts, a steady ow of cabinet orders was in the pipeline at the time of closure. Many dealers, blindsided by the shutdown, nd it dicult to believe that revenue shortfalls, or even market changes, brought the com- pany down. In their view, there almost had to be other mitigating factors. "Even the best-run businesses don't enjoy interminable lifespans. Companies come and go. Even iconic brands can fall. Sadly, Wood-Mode was one of them." Demise of an Iconic Cabinet Brand July 2019 • 5 EDITORIAL ® Like us: KitchenBathDesignNews Follow us on Twitter: @KBDN Join the discussion: Follow us on Instagram: @kbdn_sola PUBLISHER Paul DeGrandis PUBLISHER EMERITUS Eliot Sefrin EDITOR Janice Anne Costa MANAGING EDITOR Anita Shaw ASSOCIATE EDITOR Autumn McGarr GROUP EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Patrick O'Toole CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Kim Berndtson Joe Dowd Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS Elizabeth Richards Denise Vermeulen COLUMNISTS Denise Grothouse Bruce Kelleran, CKD, CPA John Morgan Ken Peterson, CKD Leah Peterson Mary Jo Peterson, CMKBD, CAPS, CLIPP Sarah Reep, CMKBD, ASID, CMG, CAPS, IIDA Eric Schimelpfenig, AKBD CREATIVE & PRODUCTION DIRECTOR Tracy Hegg SENIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER Erika Nygaard AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT Mike Serino READER SERVICE MANAGER Jeff Heine DIGITAL PROGRAMS MANAGER Tim Steingraber PROJECTS MANAGER Heidi Riedl Copyright © 2019 by SOLA Group Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be produced in any form, including electronically, without written permission from the publisher of Kitchen & Bath Design News. ELIOT SEFRIN PUBLISHER EMERITUS Continued on page f

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