This Christmas season has been good for injection molder NTM Inc.
The company's folding plastic sawhorse became the hottest seller for retailer Sears Holdings Corp. during the Thanksgiving shopping weekend according to the company, and now Elroy, Wis.-based NTM is installing a new press to boost capacity and make another 100,000 sawhorses before the holiday shopping season ends.
And that's not the only good tiding headed to NTM. The company will build a nearly 20,000-square-foot addition in Elroy in 2009 to house future expansion and is bringing some production back to the U.S. from China.
``We plan on being very busy in 2009,'' said Chief Executive Officer Larry Ormson in a Dec. 10 telephone interview.
NTM is seeing much of its growth based on lower-cost household items that Ormson referred to as ``recession-proof'' and that are sold at retailers including Sears, Wal-Mart and Kmart. Low cost makes them more attractive to consumers looking for a bargain.
In general, discount stores and lower-cost housewares items have continued to do well even as the economy has stumbled, said Peter Goldman, president of the home section of research company NPD Group Inc. of Port Washington, N.Y.
``The increasing jobless rates are going to stretch the consumers' pocketbooks, without a doubt,'' he said.
NTM's folding sawhorses, produced in sets of two, were part of Sears' after-Thanksgiving national sales blitz this year, selling at $10 per pair or about half the normal price. The retailer sold 41,367 pairs in 48 hours.
NTM makes 900,000 sawhorses annually already, and will launch a second design rated to hold up to 1,000 pounds, double the existing product and will make 400,000 of those in 2009. The 80-employee company has two plants: one in Elroy and one in Mauston, Wis.
The new 2,200-ton, 540-ounce injection molding press now being installed in Elroy will help the company mold large parts such as the sawhorses.
NTM is bringing other new products to the market that will also boost its reach, Ormson said, including a multipiece pack of plastic kitchen utensils previously molded in China.
The firm built new tooling to speed production, allowing it to cut production costs, he said. Improved manufacturing speed, combined with eliminating logistical issues of shipping from Asia, not only made it possible to bring the production to Elroy, it also is prompting NTM customers to begin moving other products to North America.
NTM also is expecting growth from future products it will make from a post-consumer high density polyethylene that meets food-grade standards.