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The closing of a Lexington furniture plant in Asheboro may be bad news for the city, but not necessarily for all 173 workers employed at the facility.

Lexington officials say that when the plant closes in April, the employees will be welcome at any of Lexington's other manufacturing plants - if they are willing to make the 25-minute trek up U.S. 64 to Lexington.Lexington isn't sure just yet how many will take them up on the offer.

``We really don't know yet,' said Frank Burr, senior vice president at Lexington. ``I think it's going to boil down to a collection of individual choices.'

Lexington announced January 25 that it would close its only plant in Asheboro. The former Dixie Furniture plant is more than 40 years old and is too outdated to merit the investment needed to modernize it.

``We would hope that we can sell it, but I think we have to face reality that it's an old building,' Burr said.

The plant has been used to make bedroom furniture. Although it is commonly known as a Dixie Furniture plant, furniture made in recent years has borne the Lexington name, following Masco's purchase of the company.

Built in the 1920s, the facility was originally the site of the National Chair Co.\

In another matter at Lexington, the company announced that it has reached an agreement with the Itokin Co. Ltd. of Tokyo, Japan, to open a ``World of Bob Timberlake' store on Madison Avenue in New York City.

The new store is expected to open on May 1.

The World of Bob Timberlake collection was one of the few true hits of the October 1991 International Home Furnishing Market. The collection features bedroom and dining room furniture, upholstered furniture and collectibles, put together under the auspices of noted artist Bob Timberlake of Thomasville.

The collection was featured the last weekend in January on an episode of PBS' ``This Old House.'

Itokin is one of the world's larger fashion apparel manufacturers. The firm entered the home furnishings\ FURNITUREindustry last year when it open a Lynn Hollyn home furnishings retail store on Madison Avenue. Both the ``Lynn Hollyn at Home' and ``World of Bob Timberlake' collections are manufactured by Lexington in Mocksville.

Shipments drop\

The figures continue to disappoint in the furniture industry.

According to its latest Furniture Executives forecast bulletin, the BDO Seidman accounting firm reports that furniture orders were down 10 percent in November, as compared to November 1989. Shipments were down 7 percent, and inventories - the amount of goods sitting in factory warehouses - were up six percent.

For the first 11 months of 1990, Seidman says orders were down 3 percent, and shipments down 2 percent. Those figures are compared to 1989 results, which was considered a down year.

Perhaps most disturbingly, Seidman reports employment was down six percent in November, compared to a year prior. Because of fewer employees, fewer hours worked and limited pay increases during 1990, the payrolls of furniture companies were down eight percent during the first 11 months of 1990.

Heilig-Meyers bucks trend\

Richmond, Va.-based Heilig-Meyers continues to buck the trend among furniture retailers. The company, which started in Goldsboro, remains the darling of many investment firms despite recessionary times.

The latest to climb on board is Legg Mason, the Baltimore-based brokerage house.

In a recent investment bulletin, Legg Mason says Heilig-Meyers has now grown into the nation's largest publicly held furniture retailer, largely by following a ``Wal-Mart strategy.'

That is, Heilig-Meyers has pursued a plan of opening stores in small towns with less competition. The company has 319 stores in 13 southeastern states.

The strategy has helped Heilig-Meyers rack up profit increases in 15 of the last 16 years. Legg Mason expects that trend to continue.

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