CHICAGO - Two Canadian resin furniture molders, Emgee Prod-ucts International and Eurocol-lection Canada Ltd., have closed. Rubbermaid Inc., citing too-low profit, sold out to Sunbeam-Oster Co. Inc. Now industry leaders wonder: Is the long-expected shakeout in resin furniture here? The answer is yes and no. Some fallout has happened during the past two years, as the industry battled polypropylene price hikes with little ability to pass them along to retailers. Even so, when one firm exits resin furniture, the molds almost always get sold.
``For years people have said there's going to be a big shakeout in the resin furniture industry, but it seems like there's always somebody waiting to pick up the capacity,'' said Barry Kushnir, national sales manager at Lawn-ware Products Inc. of Morton Grove, Ill.
Kushnir speaks from experience. Lawnware bought the molds from Eurocollection Can-ada of Brampton, Ontario, at an auction late last year. Some of the chairs were displayed at the Casual Furniture Market in Chicago.
A Canadian firm, IPL Inc. of St. Damien, Quebec, got out of furniture, although the company still does custom molding. The IPL molds were sold to Syroco Inc. of Peabody, Mass., which also exhibited at Chicago.
Carel Harmsen, chief executive officer at Grosfillex Inc. of Robesonia, Pa., said there has been a shakeout. Some molds get picked up by custom injection molders as a sideline.
``But you don't see a lot of those products on the market anymore. Most of it ends up in drugstores, and not in big quantities,'' he said.
``The fact that those molds are being bought, that doesn't mean that the chairs are being sold all over,'' Harmsen said in an interview at the Grosfillex booth. ``And a lot are being sold to other countries, like Africa, the Middle East, South America and Mexico.''
One major newcomer is Euro United Corp. of Oakville, Ontario. The privately held firm runs 25 new Engel injection presses, with clamping forces of 750-1,500 tons.
Richard Losciale, vice president of sales and marketing, said Euro United bought molds from three furniture molders and built new ones.
He said Euro United serves the low and middle ends of the market. The company has become large enough to be a single-source supplier to retailers.
Losciale said the industry ``has not consolidated in terms of vendors, but it has consolidated in terms of vendors of critical mass and also vendors with positioning in the marketplace.''
Smaller companies cannot compete, he said.
``It's a myth for the garage operator of small manufacturing to pick up a couple of molds and think they can break in,'' Losciale said.
Some very large players also fail. Most notable was Rubber-maid.
The Wooster, Ohio, housewares company first molded its own furniture, then formed a short-lived joint venture with Allibert U.S.A. When the partnership ended in 1992, Rubbermaid kept the factory in Stanley, N.C. Two years later, Rubbermaid sold the business to Sunbeam-Oster Co. Inc., citing low profitability.
Now the spotlight has turned to Sunbeam and its new CEO, Albert Dunlap, nicknamed ``Chainsaw Al'' for his reputation of slashing companies to boost their financial performance.
Dunlap, who came to Sunbeam in July, has not specified what factories he will close. An announcement is expected in November.
At the casual furniture market, competitors speculated that resin furniture, with its low margins, will get the ax. Sunbeam did not exhibit in Chicago.
``There is a shakeout in this business,'' said Philippe Ubaghs, vice president of sales and marketing at Bemis Manufacturing Co. of Sheboygan Falls. Wis.
``In a new industry, everybody jumps in it and then as time passes, it consolidates. That's normal evolution and I think we are going to see more of that,'' Ubaghs said.