Custom upholstery is a fast-growing business for Universal through its Conover, N.C., plant.
CONOVER, N.C. – Universal Furniture is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its Conover upholstery plant this month. The company bought the former Southern Furniture plant there, which established Universal as a domestic manufacturer of custom upholstery.
According to the company, Universal has quadrupled its upholstery account base since July and is preparing to onboard an additional 300 upholstery accounts by the year end. More than 200 new upholstery styles were introduced in June, and this fall the company will add 20 outdoor upholstery SKUs to its lineup, all made in Conover. This addition is part of the Coastal Living outdoor collection launch of more than100 SKUs that will be shown in a newly renovated 8,500-square-foot portion of the company’s High Point showroom.
“The factory has a history of building bench-made upholstery since 1923,” said Universal Furniture Senior Vice President of Sales Sean O’Connor. “We are proud to be the new owners, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the work that is coming out of Conover.”
With the growth in business, Universal Furniture is hiring additional experienced workers for Lectra cutting machines, cushion and flatwork sewers. Marketing efforts have also stepped up to support the growing business.
“We partnered with Cylindo to create an online draping tool where consumers can try on different fabrics, finishes and trims,” said Universal Furniture Director of Marketing Neil MacKenzie. The draping option and the company’s first special order and ready-to-ship upholstery catalog will be available at retail later this month.
In addition to business improvement and marketing support, a lot of things have been happening at the Conover plant. Many changes have been made to improve the facility, update the manufacturing process and enhance the workforce.
One of the first improvements for workers was to implement a benefits program. A healthcare insurance package was created that offers coverage for medical, dental and vision and includes a flexible spending account option. For retirement needs, a 401k savings program was developed.
In the plant, the production lines were rearranged to improve efficiency, and new machines were installed in the cutting and sewing areas.
I’m Powell Slaughter, senior editor at Furniture/Today. I returned to the publication in January 2015 after nine years of writing about furniture retail strategies and best practices at a monthly magazine focusing on home furnishings retail operations. Prior to that, I spent 10 years with F/T covering wood furniture, the last five of those as case goods editor. Upon my return to F/T, I developed coverage of the logistical and service aspects of the furniture industry as well as following the occasional, home office and home entertainment categories. In April 2018 I took over the upholstery category, with responsibility for coverage of the fabric and leather stationary and motion upholstery, recliners and massage chair categories.