The shakeout among U.S. housewares injection molders is continuing, and was evident at the International Home & Housewares Show, held March 11-13 in Chicago.
The rash of plant closings that has hit the market in recent years has some molders feeling determined to survive and to remain among the last companies standing with domestic operations.
``It's difficult after all the turbulence to stay positive, but here we are,'' said Yaffa Licari, founder of Basic Line Inc. in Perth Amboy, N.J. ``To be negative kills energy.''
She said many companies went out of business last year, which eventually had a stabilizing effect on the U.S. housewares market.
Basic Line introduced products like high-talc-filled polypropylene nestable hangers. Still, for the most part, the firm makes big, bulky items. ``It really can't come from Taiwan or China,'' she said.
Several foreign-based firms talked of gaining market share, saying they will duke it out with U.S. domestic suppliers. An official from an Israeli firm, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said changes still are coming in the sector.
``Ten years from now, there will not be an American plastics housewares industry,'' he said. U.S.-based molding companies have lagged behind foreign competitors in keeping up with technology investments required to stay ahead of the curve, especially given the investment intensity of injection molding, he said.
Here's a rundown on news from some of the major U.S. players:
Rubbermaid Home Products will exhibit at the show in 2008, but this year its ``presence'' at the show was thanks to licensing agreements with two partners. Ginsey Industries Inc. of Bellmawr, N.J., teamed with Rubbermaid to launch a line of bath products under the Rubbermaid brand. Rubbermaid also partnered with Whitney Design of Bridgeton, Mo., on nonplastic laundry products.
Rubbermaid is based in Huntersville, N.C.
Chicago-based Home Products International Inc. has a new president and chief executive officer, George Hamilton, to replace Doug Ramsdale, who is retiring.
New products include clarified PP totes that feature a lid within a lid that locks in place.
The firm announced March 22 that it has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In 2006, HPI had consolidated into one plant in Chicago.
``We were able to complete this challenging process in an extraordinarily short time,'' Hamilton said in a news release.
HPI filed for Chapter 11 in December.
Iris USA Inc.
Chet Keizer, president of Iris USA Inc. in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., said his firm is doing well. The company will triple the size of its research and development department this year, growing from two to six people, and will more than double its investment in molds. Todd Theissen was named vice president of sales.
``Our customers more and more are looking for us to come up with the ideas,'' Keizer said. ``Nowadays you have to react very, very quickly. If you think negatively, you're going to get negative results. We're investing in our facilities. We're stable and expanding.''