Innovations at Kevin Charles plant help City Furniture keep up with customer demand

TAMARAC, Fla. — Given the large upswing in demand for its Kevin Charles brand furniture, City Furniture is expanding its domestic production facilities and innovating to provide more readily available components for its popular seating products.

Keith Koenig, co-founder and current chairman of City Furniture, said, “The global freight market has made importing stationary upholstery more difficult and expensive. The advantage for buying overseas for certain pieces is no longer there.”

The company spent $2.54 million in 2019 to expand its New Albany, Miss. facility to 125,000 square feet. Now, it’s expanding production with an additional $6.571 million investment that will double facility size, adding 125,000 square feet.

According to Koenig, most of City Furniture’s top 10 sellers are from the Kevin Charles brand. To meet customer demand, he said, “we developed a unique merchandising proposition that leverages our cutting and sewing factory in Mississippi. Many companies buy cut-and-sew kits in Asia, but when they do that, they limit the number of options they can offer quickly.”

Instead, City Furniture creates and stocks its own cut-and-sew kits at the Kevin Charles Mississippi facility. “Being all made domestically enables us to stock multiple colors of each collection where we have all the pieces from sectional ‘sections,’ to loveseats, sofas, ottomans and sleepers— generally in four colors in the same base fabric that allows us to offer essentially a custom order program delivered today,” Koenig said.

Customers are happy with the selection available now. Koenig related a recent interaction with a sales associate at one of the City Furniture stores. “One of our sales associates was presenting (the) Kevin Charles (brand) to a nice couple,” he said. “They were looking at our Austin group with, of course, the typical question — does it come in another color. And the associate could take them to our display and say ‘It comes in four colors in stock, and we have all the pieces. So whatever sectional you want to build, everything is stocked.’

“It’s impossible to get that with custom product because inventory lead time is so long,” Koenig finished.

He added that many customers “get confused by 50 to 100 covers” and having four color choices in the same cover enable them to get “what they want when they want it.”

“This doesn’t eliminate the custom order process, but it’s nice to offer this turnaround,” Koenig said.

He indicated that customers for City Furniture’s proprietary Kevin Charles brand are often repeat customers because “many of them had it before and it performed well and said they’re back for more.”

Along with the company’s investment in the facility expansion, Koenig expects that an additional 75 hires “will comprise all positions in the factory that will be opened and expanded, from product development, to cut and sew, to upholstery and shipping.”

Koenig said he’s very pleased with the Kevin Charles partnership, and part of the success stems from the state of Mississippi’s support.

“The state of Mississippi is simply fabulous to do business with. They work very hard to offer incentives that are helpful for us making an investment,” he said, adding, “Businesses wish to be where they’re welcome.”

City Furniture is striving to keep its inventory for the Kevin Charles line well-stocked. “It takes a bit of extra effort to coordinate product on the retail side and the wholesale/manufacture side,” Koenig said. “We look forward to our next expansion.”

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