Paging through the daily newspaper at the end of May there seemed to be good news followed by more good news. Now with the war in Iraq behind us for the most part, everything here seems to be picking up. Consumer confidence—that odd jumble of economic indicators that is supposed to reflect how consumers are reacting—was reported at its highest level in six months. Added to that was the news that low mortgage rates were boosting home sales at its third-highest rate since 1963. Unfulfilled back-orders were building, too. That, evidently, indicates companies will begin hiring soon to fill those orders. Retail sales were reported rising—albeit mostly at chain stores—and stock prices were rising as well. Heck, even the Cubs were hanging on to a game-and-a-half lead in the National League Central.
Things definitely could be better, but then things have been a whole lot worse.
Things were worse in the 1990s, for example, when the state of North Carolina
saw its number of textile sewing plants dwindle from around 600 to three. That’s
when things turned a bit sour for Curtain & Drapery Fashions, Inc., this
month’s cover story (see page 24). A company that began in Johnnie Nichols’ backyard
had grown to 250 employees and sales of $18 million. But the company was focused
on the ready-made market, and as more and more mills moved their plants offshore
to take advantage of cheaper labor, the bottom began dropping out of the business
Something had to be done, and that’s when Curtain & Drapery Fashions
reinvented itself. To do that, it looked to the custom market—actually,
it created a sort of hybrid market with its Almost-Custom program begun in 1997.
This semi-custom program takes advantage of the company’s expertise, equipment
and facilities for the high-output manufacture of window treatments and bedding
that can be customized.
It has meant survival for this family-owned business and serves as an example
of the new business strategies that smart-thinking and quick-acting companies
need to examine and perhaps try. Because things may be picking up for the U.S.
economy right now, but business moves in cycles and the good news is bound to
be replaced by bad news.