Bassett furniture rebounds business roanoke.com v gashi halil bytyqi

Company executives joined weekend bus tours that dropped off secret shoppers at Bassett Furniture Direct stores. The tour and the harsh feedback received turned out to be a watershed event for Bassett Furniture, Spilman said earlier this month.

But first came the Great Recession, which hammered domestic furniture manufacturers already struggling to redefine themselves as importers and distributors of furniture made in Asia. And the deep economic slump affected Bassett’s plan to redo and re-brand its retail stores, now known as Bassett Home Furnishings stores.

During a recent interview, Spilman said it is tough to pin down the low point for Bassett Furniture, which was co-founded in 1902 by his great-grandfather John David “J.D.” Bassett, and was once described as the world’s largest manufacturer of wooden furniture.

In 2008, a hedge fund that owned about 5 percent of Bassett Furniture’s common stock slammed the company’s focus on direct shipments to corporate-owned or licensed retail stores and threatened for a while to load Bassett’s board with like-minded investors.

But Bassett Furniture has bounced back. Its stock has traded recently in the vicinity of $30 per share. In January, the company began manufacturing furniture again in Bassett. In October, Bassett Furniture reported a profit of $4.3 million for the third quarter ended Aug. 29.

Among other things, the shoppers said the stores were crammed too full of furniture, which hampered envisioning how the pieces might look in a room at home. The ceilings and walls were too high, the women said. And it was not clear that the stores offered custom upholstery, they said.

Bassett Furniture reported in October that the company’s dedicated retail store program continues to offer the most significant growth opportunity. The company also has wholesale accounts with multiple-line furniture stores, specialty stores and mass merchants.

Epperson praised other strategic initiatives, including a recently extended collaboration with HGTV and the acquisition of the remaining 51 percent of Zenith Freight Lines during a time when truck drivers are in short supply. Bassett first acquired a stake in Zenith in 1998.

On Oct. 15, Bassett Furniture announced plans to open a new upholstery manufacturing plant in Grand Prairie, Texas, in February. The company said the 86,000-square-foot facility will manufacture sofas, love seats, sectionals and chairs, and also serve as a home delivery hub for Zenith Global Logistics.

Roanoker Beth Macy’s best-selling book, “Factory Man,” quoted former Bassett employees who described Bob Spilman Sr., who died in November 2009, as a controlling, hyper-competitive, tyrannical and sometimes foul-tempered genius in the furniture industry.

“For many years, Dad was one of the most respected and powerful men in the furniture industry,” he said. “There are many current and former employees that still express the affection that they had for him. I do not feel that the book presented a balanced portrayal of dad.”

“I respect Rob’s position as both a son and a CEO, and appreciate the time he gave me — but I worked very hard to accurately represent his father from the point of view of furniture workers, family and community members, and industry insiders,” she said.

Macy’s book traces the complex history of the Bassett family, flaws and all. And it chronicles how John Bassett III, the “Factory Man” of the title, has battled to keep Vaughan-Bassett Furniture afloat as a domestic manufacturer of wooden bedroom furniture.

The duties collected were later distributed to eligible furniture companies in the U.S. Ironically, recipients included Bassett Furniture Industries, which received about $17.5 million — money used, in large part, to support its retail stores.