The sudden closure was the second shock wave to hit the furniture industry this month, following the similar closure of Klausner’s. While the two companies differed in their distribution strategies, product designs, and size, they had one important thing in common: They are both owned by private equity investors, who often view their investments coldly and have historically not been kind. to the furniture business.
That certainly seems to be the case at Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. And in an August 26 letter to employees from interim CEO Chris Moy, which was obtained by editors at the industry publication, the company stated that it was unable to obtain additional financing to continue operations. “In the wake of this unfortunate development, the company will unfortunately need to curtail operations and terminate employment of our employees starting August 26, 2023,” the statement read. “Because these events were unexpected, we were unable to notify you and others of this difficult decision. We regret to bring you this news.”
Moi, who joined the firm only in April, has established a reputation as a turnaround specialist for private equity firms. The company has been owned since 2015 by the Stevens Group, a family-run equity firm with a portfolio of mostly technology and industrial properties. The company has no other investments in furniture, although it retains shares in Conn’s Home Plus, a 168-location retail operation that began in the hardware segment but expanded into home furnishings categories including furniture.
MG+BW has had a long and tortuous path since the two founders of the same name started the company, then called Mitchell Gold, in 1989. A former furniture executive at Bloomingdale’s, Gold was his personal partner at the time, along with Williams, who had a design background – built the company into a well-known niche player in furniture that capitalized on the then trend of covered upholstery. Their brand eventually expanded to include additional products in seating, as well as decorative goods and accessories.
Although it was a major supplier of private label brands to many well-known lifestyle retailers such as RH, Crate & Barrel, and Pottery Barn, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams eventually began opening its own stores, with 25 locations as well as several operating clearance centers. currently .
The company has also taken a very public stance on social issues, including LGBTQ rights, and has been known to provide worker benefits and in-plant services far superior to what other comparable companies have offered.
The two founders sold the company to Rowe Furniture in 1998, but ended up buying it back when the payments could not be made. That’s when a series of partners brought in investors, the latest being Stephens. The name of the company was also changed to reflect the two founders who, although no longer personal partners, continued to run it for several decades.
The couple tapped Allison O’Connor to succeed Gould as CEO in 2019. Until then, Williams stayed on for several years as the brand’s chief designer, and both founders are believed to have retained some equity ownership in the company. Williams reduced his role in the years following O’Connor’s rise as the company’s creative direction shifted toward collaborations with designers such as Brigitte Romanek and Rafael de Cárdenas. None of the founders has been actively involved in running the business over the past few years.
What happens to the company’s assets is unknown at this time. Stevens Group did not immediately respond to an inquiry from Home businessMG+BW has not made any other statements beyond its initial announcement. The company operates a bedding manufacturing facility in Taylorsville, North Carolina, which is believed to be a good factory with modern equipment. Its location in the heart of western North Carolina’s furniture-manufacturing belt could make it an attractive acquisition for other companies in the area. Undoubtedly, its workforce will be required by these competitors as well.
The stores, most of which are located in high-profile retail shopping areas with commensurate rents, could also be of interest given the current strong demand for prime retail space. Its brand name may also be of some value.
The closure comes shortly after Klausner’s similar abrupt closure — an unwelcome trend following a third furniture company, United Furniture, which closed 10 months ago under more or less similar circumstances. While United was not owned by private equity, it did have an individual investor as owner, despite not being affiliated with any fund.
The entire furniture industry, which has been struggling since a pandemic boom was replaced by declining sales 18 months ago, is still on edge, and more shoes are likely to drop. Brands such as Klausner, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, and Lynn (United Furniture Company’s retail subsidiary) were among the most recognized names in the industry. Now, they’re gone.
Homepage image: A selection from the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams spring collection
Warren Schulberg He is the former editor-in-chief of several leading B2B publications. He has been a guest lecturer at Columbia University Graduate School of Business. Received honors from the International Furniture and Design Association and the Fashion Institute of Technology; And he cited it Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and other media as a leading expert in the industry. His columns on Retail Observation provide deep industry insights into key markets and product categories.