Rumors of headquarters move swirl in High Point
High Point and the furniture industry have been abuzz of late with talk that Heritage Home Group could be planning to move its corporate headquarters to the city.
Last week, Furniture Today, a furniture industry publication, reported that sources said that Heritage Home Group plans to relocate to the area from St. Louis. Heritage Home Group, which is the parent company of several North Carolina furniture companies, including Broyhill Furniture and Thomasville Furniture, could not be reached for comment. (A company spokesman declined last week to comment when asked by the News-Topic and Furniture Today.)
Last year, private-equity firm KPS Capital Partners announced the formation of the company to acquire Furniture Brand International’s assets out of bankruptcy for $280 million. Furniture Brands’ holdings included Thomasville Furniture, Drexel Heritage, Broyhill, Lane, Henredon, Pearson, Hickory Chair, Lane Venture, Maitland-Smith and La Barge brands.
Furniture Brands started out in St. Louis as a shoe manufacturer, then diversified, then in the 1990s following a bankruptcy sold off its non-furniture interests and renamed itself as Furniture Brands International. One reason the company apparently stayed in St. Louis was that it had an expensive, long-term lease on the building it moved into, said Jerry Epperson, a furniture-industry analyst with Richmond, Va.-based Mann, Armistead & Epperson Ltd. Heritage Home took over the headquarters.
“Now, there’s no longer a reason to be there, and they can move closer to where their companies are based,” Epperson said. “One reason we have so many furniture companies based in North Carolina is because you can recruit and bring in good, knowledgeable people, and that’s a real key.”
Tom Conley, president and CEO of the High Point Market Authority, said rumors of a corporate headquarters move by Heritage Home Group have been circulating for months, but he’s heard nothing affirmative.
“We would be delighted to have them here,” Conley said. “Finding a new corporate headquarters has become a real big deal in corporate America, and I’m sure they’re playing their cards close to the vest. But there’s been a lot of conversation.”
Loren Hill, president of High Point Economic Development Corp., said his office does not comment on potential business relocation or expansion projects.
Heritage Home Group has been closing facilities and slashing jobs of late.
It announced in January that it would close two Thomasville furniture plants, eliminating 84 jobs, and a Lane furniture plant near Tupelo, Miss., cutting 480 jobs. Earlier this month it laid off some Broyhill employees in Lenoir.
High Point scored a victory last year, when Stanley Furniture Co. moved its corporate headquarters from Virginia to the downtown furniture market district, pledging to bring 42 jobs.
Conley said moving to High Point would put Heritage Home Group not only closer to the furniture market and its showrooms but closer to its customers.
Epperson said that even if Heritage Home Group moves here, it doesn’t necessarily mean the future is secure for its furniture lines.
“The KPS group has shown very little of their hand relative to the direction they’re going to take these companies,” he said.