No lull for Loll Designs of Duluth under new owner, leadership
The producer of outdoor furniture continues to grow quickly.
DULUTH — Loll Designs is growing aggressively under the direction of a new president, Eric Swanson.
When the Duluth manufacturer of outdoor weatherproof furniture made from recycled materials was acquired by Landscape Forms Inc. in December 2020, the company was struggling to meet demand for its products, with customers often facing up to 12-week lead times.
Swanson said his team at Loll has recently lowered that lead time to a much more manageable three weeks.
He explained that when the pandemic struck, Loll’s orders surged.
“As people increasingly worked from home, there was a massive spike that we saw in demand for home goods,” Swanson said.
Swanson has been with Landscape Forms, based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for 20 years now, most recently serving as the company’s chief revenue officer, a position he will retain, as well as leading Loll.
He said Loll is the fastest-growing division of the company and while it currently accounts for less than half of Landscape Forms’ $185 million in annual sales, he expects it will overtake other portions of the business in the near future.
Swanson said while Loll isn’t growing at quite the exponential pace it had been at the start of the pandemic, its business continues to grow, as does the company’s Duluth workforce. When Landscape Forms bought Loll, it employed 82 people. Today that number has grown by more than 40% to 116, and Swanson said the company continues to hire.
Landscape Forms also has made capital investments in new equipment, including additional CNC cutting machines to boost production. Swanson said the company has improved work flow through its Duluth plant, as well.
Despite the change of ownership, Swanson expects Loll to remain firmly rooted in Duluth.
“We feel that having geographic diversity is a strength for our businesses. Part of the Loll brand is inspired by its home base in Duluth, which is known for its affinity for all things outdoors in all weather, and we are all about that. Plus there is a quality workforce here that shares the same core values as Landscape Forms. It’s a good fit and makes sense for our business model,” he said.
Loll has had an influence on its buyer, too, as Landscape Forms has adopted its “1% for the planet” approach to business donating a portion of all sales back to organizations; that make world a better, more sustainable place.
For its part, Loll has contributed to Chester Bowl, Hartley Nature Center and Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank. It employees also have volunteered to help with local initiatives, such as Clean Yer Creek, blood drives and campus gardening and composting
The business was recently recertified by Cradle to Cradle, a third-party organization that recognizes businesses that produce goods in a safe, sustainable and responsible fashion.
A native of Chicago, Swanson has lived in Chanhassen, with his Minnesota-born wife since 1999. The couple currently is looking to buy a home in Duluth. But in the meantime, Swanson has been spending his work week up north and heading back to see family on the weekends. He said they’re eager to make the move soon though.