Hoffman Mills to Close

Confusion Abounds as Date for Shuttering Approaches

Carole Sloan, December 20, 2004

Shippensburg, Pa. — The planned closing of Hoffman Mills, Inc. (HMI) between Feb. 15 and 28 is creating confusion among its customers in furniture, home textiles and retailing.

Richard Hoffman, CEO of the mill, has been unavailable for comment about the closing, leaving lingering questions about how on-hand customer orders will be processed, and how commitments for fabrics and manufactured product produced offshore will be distributed.

The 78-year-old company said in a statement distributed to employees earlier last week, “The Chinese fabric market has devastated the fabric industry throughout the United States. The business of HMI has been declining over the past several years.”

The statement added, “Due to the faltering nature of our business here within the United States and increased competition from China, the company has been actively seeking creative methods to sustain our business and continue as a going concern. In other words, it was our hope that our efforts would have enabled the company to remain in operation.”

It continued that despite the efforts of the owners and the employees, “The situation appears dire and hopeless.”

The company, which has sales of about $50 million, according to industry estimates, was distributed about evenly to the upholstered furniture and bedding segments of the home furnishings business. In recent years, the impact of direct sourcing in the bedding business heavily affected HMI’s business in that segment.

Earlier this year, the company formally launched a finished product division with product sourced in China. The initial phase was to concentrate on bedding, to perhaps be followed by cut-and-sew upholstery packages. Earlier, it had supplied individual customers with bedding programs.

The company had been sourcing fabrics from China for five years, and bedding for two years, according to Barbara Hoffman, vice president, who discussed the program in March. Fabrics for the program were certain “high-end pick constructions” that could not be produced here.

Approximately 335 jobs will be affected by the closing, and the official statement said the closing is “expected to be permanent.”

In detailing the plans, the statement said, “There are no bumping rights and there is no union or employee representative.”

The company has notified the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Rapid Response Coordination Services and the town of Shippensburg of the anticipated permanent closing of its entire plant facility, pursuant to the Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification Act (WARN).

HMI Ceramics, a subsidiary of the company that distributes ceramic supplies to institutions and individuals, is not expected to be impacted by the closing of the Shippensburg plant.

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