Are we in a “niche market”?

It might be a good thing if we are. According to a recent article in the New York Times, small specialty shops catering to the “high end” are doing much better overall than large sale manufacturing. And this includes small woodworking and furniture making shops.

It seems that the market for expensive items, while maybe not as strong as it could be, is, like the Eveready bunny, still going. But, apparently, being able to offer high quality and unique design gives the small manufacturer a completive advantage. And smaller companies are typically lighter on their feet, which can help them make it through a difficult stretch easier that their larger more cumbersome counterparts.

Also at work here is a phenomenon we have seen before. When things get tight, people tend to want to improve their environments. A nicer table might make it easier to deal with the fact that they are dining at home instead of at their favorite restaurant.



  • I can confirm those reports and agree with everything you just said. At Smoky Mountain Woodworks we specialize in custom designed, hand crafted (NO computer conrolled tools), solid hardwood furniture so we are definately serving a niche market. And we have been keeping quite busy. It got a little scary right before Christmas – I actually had time to build a table for my own family — but since then it has been picking up steadily and our back-order list is increasing once again.

  • I also will confirm that some niche markets are doing well. We make solid cherry and solid walnut furniture (also the old fashioned way, without computers) and had a very good year in 2008. The first of this year has slowed some but we have orders and are staying competitive. We are planning our projects using lean practices, using our lumber efficiently, making what we need, and managing our inventory better than we ever had in the past. In the long run, this could be a very good lesson for all companies in how to manage their time and materials better and work more efficiently. We may come out even stronger than before when the economy gets back to normal, as it eventually will. Colonial House Furniture in Auburn, Kentucky.

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