Rubbermaid Inc. will ``lend its molding expertise'' to Graco Children's Products Inc. when Rubbermaid completes the purchase of the Elverson, Pa., firm, according to a spokeswoman. Graco mainly uses metal, fabric and other materials for most of its infant products such as strollers, play yards and swings.
It does some of its own plastics molding and outsources plastic parts, including from molders in the Far East, Rubbermaid spokeswoman Lorrie Paul Crum said.
Crum said Rubbermaid and Little Tikes plants probably will not do molding for Graco.
``They are already a low-cost manufacturer,'' she said in a telephone interview from her firm's Wooster, Ohio, headquarters.
She added that Rubbermaid plans to keep running Graco's plants at Elverson, its main facility, and in Greer, S.C. It will not merge Graco with Little Tikes but will keep it as a separate company in its juvenile products business.
Graco's product line overlaps little with Little Tikes' and will help Rubbermaid diversify in infant markets. Rubbermaid will gain from Graco's emphasis on fashion coordination, and from its distribution channels, especially in the Far East and Europe, Crum explained.
Crum said the Graco deal is partly a response to growing competition from firms such as Mattel Inc.'s Fisher Price Inc. subsidiary, which recently entered outdoor play products in direct competition with Little Tikes. Outdoor play sales have been weak this year because cool spring and early summer weather shortened the selling season.