November 20, 2008

Morigeauing, Geauing, Gone. Canadian Baby Industrial Complex Just Got Smaller


Morigeau Lepine is--whoops, make that was. Morigeau Lepine was an old-line baby furniture manufacturer in Quebec, which had been in business for over sixty years. The family-owned company suddenly closed its factory doors last Friday and laid off its 40 workers.

At its peak, Morigeau-Lepine's factory in Saint-François-de-la-Rivière-du-Sud, a bend in the road upriver from Quebec City, employed over 200 people making high-end cribs and whatnot, largely in traditional styles, and all from North American wood [they're in Canada, after all.]

Caught between changing tastes and price competition from overseas, Morigeau-Lepine dabbled unsuccessfully in modern nursery designs, beginning with a direct knockoff of David Netto's crib, and then with a contemporary crib of its own design that was quickly cloned and sold at JC Penney's at a 80% lower price. Its long-established retail network--made up mostly of local, independent baby boutiques--effectively kept the company off the web. And then it didn't help that over 80% of the company's sales were in the US, a country which is reportedly experiencing a bit of economic turmoil of late.

And considering the economic news these days, maybe it's not surprising that the closure of a 40-person factory doesn't get much attention. Still, I would have thought the Baby Industrial Complex's leading trade publication, Kids Today, would have the news by now. [After all, they did mention that Canadian giant Dorel's sales increased last quarter..

But so far, the only report I can find is a short story from Radio Canada. I guess if you're going to deliver news of a rural town's only factory closing down, you should do it in the twangiest, most hilarious-sounding Quebecois accent you can muster. Gotta keep the spirits up.

[note:In the news clip, it's pronounced Mori-ZHO, not Mori-GO. Somehow it doesn't feel right to complain about what this does to my headline.]

Morigeau-Lepine fermeture: 40 employés mis à pied [ via dt reader md]
Looks like they didn't turn off the website yet: []


Sadly, I think we are going to see a lot more of this over the next few months. Many retailers/manufacturers live and die by the holiday shopping season and this year's looks to be pretty grim.

We ordered a Morigeau dresser in May, and when the delivery was delayed, we were told by the store where we purchased it that the owner had died, so I suspect that the kids decided they didn't want to continue the business.

For our 2 1/2 year old, we are considering buying a floor sample sale furniture set made by Morigeau Lepine consisting of a twin bed with built in drawers underneath, a 5 drawer dresser and night table from a reputable local baby furniture store. The price is 1/2 the original retail, but we're still talking $1,500 pre tax. We've heard conflicting stories from the sales people so far about the construction - that it's made of solid wood versus veneer. It is finished in white laquer. Given that the company has gone out of business, I can't find any info on it nor any ratings on their juvenile furniture (versus say cribs). Anyone have any thoughts?

We have their bunk beds and love them. My boys did just break the railing, but they were wrestling in it and pushing on it which it is not designed for. The wood is solid, not veneer. They milled it at the factory. Ours is maple. I am very sad to hear they closed.

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