Former sister companies Midwest, CBK merge

Home Accents Industry News

Jenny Heinzen York, May 1, 2009

Midwest of Cannon Falls and CBK have merged to create Midwest-CBK, company officials announced earlier this month.

Midwest, producer of the Colonial Candle and Seasons of Cannon Falls brand products, and CBK Styles, wholesaler of home and garden decor, gifts and accessories are both owned by Blyth Inc.

According to a press release on the merger, the new company combines the strengths of both companies. The Midwest-CBK merger will be led by Frederic Contino as president, with Terry Stewart as executive vice president of sales, Renee Solczak as vice president of national accounts, and Renee Williams as vice president of independent accounts.

Shelli Lissick, brand communication specialist for the company, said there will be consolidation in the form of jobs and showrooms, but those details are yet to be ironed out. The showroom changes will include moving existing CBK showrooms in Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and Las Vegas into expanded Midwest showrooms in those same markets, as well as expanding other Midwest showrooms around the country (Minneapolis, New York, Seattle and Billerica, Mass.) to accommodate the growth in the product line.

Contino told Home Accents Today that the sales forces of the companies had been consolidated to eliminate overlap, but that customers would actually find "more boots on the ground" than ever before. "We have consolidated the sales forces — there is one sales force as of today selling CBK and Midwest products," he said. "We consolidated two into one, and some territories had two reps, so we made the best choice possible, and we treated them with the same respect that we treat all of our employees." He noted that on the whole, the company views this move as a positive for its customers because of natural synergies in its customer base, product lines, warehousing, sourcing and customer service operations.

"We are excited and proud to combine the power and resources of two extraordinary, successful companies with strong values and similar business practices into one, creating the foremost single source for outstanding products, as well as a renowned sales force and superior customer service for independent retailers," Contino said in the press release. "Our alliance brings many benefits and opportunities to retailers through an unmatched selection of gift and home products from one company, more innovation in products and programs, depth of design, sourcing, manufacturing resources and customer service and support, backed by a company that is stronger than ever as one."

Contino said the current economic conditions, combined with the synergies between the sister companies, made now the right time to make this move.

"With the economy and what's going on with our customers, and overall sales being down in the industry, the critical mass to make this move has never made more sense than it does now," he said.

Stewart said more changes will come over the next several months. "This is a decision that will continue to roll out over time," he said. "We are not in a rush. This was not a reactionary move; this was a proactive move. This is a wonderful thing, and it's for the right reasons."

The company will operate with offices and manufacturing plants in Cannon Falls, Minn.; Elkin, N.C.; Franklin, Tenn.; Hong Kong; Shenzhen, China; and Union City, Tenn.

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