As StyleMaster Inc. struggles to survive the Kmart Corp. bankruptcy, three Leominster-area housewares molders say they have not been seriously hurt by Kmart's financial woes.
The comments from officials of Sterilite Corp., Aero Plastics Inc. and Holiday Housewares Inc. came as New England's plastics industry gathered in Leominster for the MassPlastics '02 trade show, held March 27-28. Leominster remains a center of U.S. plastics housewares manufacturing, even after two housewares molding plants closed there in recent years.
Leominster-based Holiday Housewares injection molds food-storage and other items for Kmart's Martha Stewart Everyday line. Russell Brillon, vice president of finance, declined to say how much Kmart owes the molding company, but he said Holiday officials constantly review the creditworthiness of their customers, including Kmart.
``We saw it early on, but it is a setback as well for us. We did see it early enough to minimize our exposure and replace volume elsewhere,'' Brillon said in an interview at Holiday Housewares' factory.
Holiday continues to mold for Kmart.
Kmart's problems have been especially brutal for StyleMaster because the retailer accounted for half of the Chicago molder's sales in 2001.
Kmart accounts for only 5 percent of sales to Aero Plastics, said Heather Plaster, director of sales and marketing for the Leominster molder. ``We were not hit in any major way,'' she said.
Aero Plastics used to be a major housewares molder to Kmart, but Plaster said Aero lost much of that business in 2001. Now, she said, Aero mostly supplies Kmart with promotional offerings, such as back-to-school specials. The company sells housewares to other retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Home Depot Inc.
Aero Plastics plans to open a large plant in Atlanta, in mid-2003. The company will retain its Leominster factory.
Officials from another Leominster housewares molder, United Plastics Corp., did not return telephone calls.
Kmart ``hasn't really had an impact'' on Sterilite in nearby Townsend, Mass., said President David Stone. ``We weren't doing very much'' molding for Kmart, Stone said.
The Leominster housewares industry underwent a shakeout in 2000 and early 2001, as two old-line companies closed plants. Tucker Housewares Inc. shut down when its parent, Zeta Consumer Products, filed for bankruptcy. Zeta officials blamed a tough retail environment, among other factors. Also, Home Products International Inc. shuttered the old Tamor Plastics Corp. operation, in part because of the liquidation of Bradlees Inc., an East Coast retail chain.
Tucker and Tamor were founded in Leominster in the 1950s.