Vanguard’s wood facilities fuels its domestic, import edge

CONOVER, N.C. — Vanguard Furniture’s wood production facilities here are helping the company stay competitive as both a domestic producer and importer.

Through this blended strategy, the company imports wood products — ranging from parts to fully assembled product — for its bedroom, dining, occasional, office, vanity and entertainment lines from Vietnam and Indonesia. It then builds and customizes the finished product in Conover.

This custom process involves some 70 wood and painted finishes available in a variety of looks ranging from lower sheen applications to high gloss looks. But it also extends to the customization of components such as table legs, drawer fronts and bases of case pieces.

Vanguard also uses some 2,000 fabrics, which are applied to dining chairs and the headboards and bases of upholstered beds.

Some of this product is available through the company’s Make It Yours program that covers bedroom and other wood categories such as dining, occasional, home office and vanities. But the custom component also extends throughout the entire case goods line, including licensed designer collections by Thom Filicia and Michael Weiss.

“We have a hybrid approach to sourcing,” said Andy Bray, president. “We approach product from a capability and value story, backwards. We design product and say, ‘What if anything can we do at our own factory and what is the consumer willing to pay?’”

The blended strategy is one that helps make the company competitive as it benefits from the quality and craftsmanship of low-priced Asian labor that is later combined with the craftsmanship and capabilities of American workers.

Indeed the customization on the wood side has roots in the upholstery business, which dates back to the late 1960s. The company began offering case goods around 1990.

By Bray’s estimates, some 90% of its current case goods line has some U.S. value added component, including some assembly.

“We have really carved a niche,” Bray said, noting that over the years, its customers — notably designers — have come to value its custom capabilities on the wood side. “We apply that same (custom) mentality to case goods and we are always thinking of what can we do that make something individualized…something that a designer can get to solve a problem for their client.”

With its custom options, which also include hardware and premium drawer face options with materials ranging from ash burl and bird’s eye maple to bone and capiz shell, the company once again combines imported materials with American craftsmanship to build finished pieces.

“More than anything we are a domestic resource,” Bray noted of the wood facilities that currently employ about 75 of the company’s 600 workers. “We start off with the imported item and are putting on details that make it special. And we do it one-off. In most everything in case goods, we think of what we can do to add value.”

Today, he estimates case goods represents nearly 40% of overall sale volume, more than triple what it was 10 years ago. Bray attributes this success not only to the custom offerings, but also the style-driven nature of the line.

“It all starts with product,” he said, adding that order turnaround is relatively quick, with custom orders shipping in three to four weeks from the time of order. “We have been blessed with good designers and good designs, and we have been able to tell a value story.”