Everyone knows we’ve been mired in a recession for two-plus years now, and it certainly has hit the woodworking sector hard. Woodworkers have cut back on buying tools and products related to our hobby and/or business. Some retail stores and Web sites have gone out of business or cut back drastically. And manufacturers have been forced to cut back either on marketing, production, or product development—or all three. But as we start to see glimpses of hope, I decided to check in with a few manufacturers to see how they’re doing.
I spent the first day with the WMH Tool Group, parent company of Powermatic and Jet woodworking tools as well as Wilton metalworking products. Their office, warehouse, and distribution center is located in LaVergne, Tennessee, just southeast of Nashville. Jet recently moved into this facility, closing its longtime base of operations in Elgin, Illinois. Barry Schwaiger, director of the product lines for both Powermatic and Jet, gave me a tour of the facility and keyed me in on what tools are moving and which are not.
Shipping and receiving
It surprised me to learn that Powermatic’s single best selling product over the past four or five years is its big wood lathe. For Jet it’s the 16/32 drum sander (formerly sold under the Performax brand).
Jet and Powermatic bandsaws
Barry tells me that Jet and Powermatic are seeing increases in business over the past couple of months—a good sign for these folks who have suffered through very lean times of late. And with increased sales comes news of new products being developed. Sadly, though, I’m not allowed to share specifics just yet. But be heartened to know that the good folks at WMH Tool Group are working hard to bring innovative tools and products to market to meet the needs of professional as well as hobbyist woodworkers.
Next up is General and General International.