Door-to-Door Sales Icon Fuller Brush Co. Files for Bankruptcy
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Door-to-Door Sales Icon Fuller Brush Co. Files for Bankruptcy

March 2, 2012

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Business Week reports that Fuller Brush Co., which became known for its door-to-door salesmen, has filed for bankruptcy protection. Prior to the filing, the company had reportedly been operating for more than a century, starting business in 1906.

In its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing papers, Fuller Brush Co. listed assets and debts both in the $50 million range. The company’s parent company, CPAC Inc., also submitted a bankruptcy petition.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows companies to reorganize their debts while maintaining operations, often allows filers to renegotiate expensive contracts with landlords, lenders, and even employees. Reports indicate that Fuller Brush Co. intends to use the protection of the bankruptcy court to minimize its operating costs while exploring addition sources of revenue.

Earlier this year, Fuller Brush Co. apparently announced a “reboot” that included the launch of a new, interactive website and the introduction of new marketing campaigns. Despite those efforts, however, the company finds itself in financial distress.

Humble Beginnings & Famous Salesmen before Bankruptcy

Launched by Alfred C. Fuller in Boston, Fuller Brush Co. began as a one-man operation. Fuller reportedly first sold brushes door-to-door, then began manufacturing his own brushes according to comments he collected from his customers.

In the years since its launch, the company became iconic throughout the United States. Both Donald Duck and the Big Bad Wolf apparently appeared in cartoons dressed as Fuller Brush men, and in 1948, a movie by the title “The Fuller Brush Man” hit theaters.

By 1960, the company had grown to a net worth of $109 million. Its former employee roster includes a number of household names, including TV anchorman Dick Clark, the Reverend Billy Graham, baseball superstar Joe DiMaggio, and actor Dennis Quaid.

Headquartered in Great Bend, Kansas, Fuller Brush Co. reportedly produces some 2,000 products. Alfred Fuller died in 1973, but since his death the company has continued to produce and sell its home cleaning products.

Fuller Brush Co.’s bankruptcy filing marks yet another in a series of bankruptcy petitions by companies whose central products or services have in one way or another been pushed out by the introduction of new technologies.

Last fall, Borders bookstore sought Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, largely because of an inability to compete with online booksellers like Amazon. Earlier this year, Eastman Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, mostly because the popularity of digital cameras has decimated film sales in recent years.


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