In the past four months, two major players in the moving business have gone belly-box up.
In December, Washington, DC-based Office Movers, a behemoth in the office relocation sector, announced they would be closing their doors as part of a larger corporate shutdown by the multi-faceted Kane Co. Then just last month Graebel Van Lines, for years the country’s largest privately-owned household goods mover, began winding down their operations by selling some assets and liquidating others.
At a glance it is easy to conclude both companies simply went bankrupt.
But a closer look tells us otherwise.
Office Movers had a big thing going over there in the nation’s capital. True, the office moving sector had declined some in recent years due to the trend of smaller office spaces and the rise of shared facilities. But it was the unfortunate string of events, beginning with their efforts in 2015 to move into two larger warehouses that led to an irreversible financial pickle. In short, the new warehouses weren’t completed on time, Office Movers couldn’t negotiate a compromise with their old warehouse facilities and they blew so much cash and credit moving into temporary warehousing that they couldn’t recover financially.
CEO John Kane told the Baltimore Sun that the culture of his company seemed to be working “…until I made a stupid mistake.”
One wrong move, ruining an otherwise successful company.
The situation with Graebel, on the other hand, is much murkier.
First of all, perhaps in a sign of things to come, Graebel Van Lines went through a 2015 divestiture from parent company Graebel Companies Inc. But then in 2016 Graebel CEO Terry Carter reported a huge jump in company revenue. Things looked good for the nation’s largest private mover.
Except it didn’t. In January of that same year, Graebel had begun a process of closing warehouses and laying off employees at branch offices. The Washington Business Journal reports that as of last month, Graebel had closed all but two of its thirty-three nationwide branches, three of which are being acquired by Suddath Van Lines.
Graebel seems uninclined to talk much about the situation – WashBizJournal states that repeated calls to Graebel headquarters and branch offices have gone unanswered. But Chuck Kuhn, founder and president of capital-area JK Moving (who, incidentally, is benefitting greatly from the demise of Office Movers) offers a bit of personal insight:
“This is another example of a company trying to perform services below cost and thinking they will make it up with volume.”
Throw in a misclassification lawsuit by one of Graebel’s drivers – a lawsuit that could go class-action – and you have a sullied ending to a once-shining moving company.
Two different situations indeed. But we see one thing in common.
If Chuck Kuhn is right about Graebel, and if Office Movers CEO John Kane’s one mistake really was the catalyst for his company’s downfall, then we might conclude that by reaching too far too fast these two companies stretched themselves too thin.
And for all their former employees, that’s not too much consolation.