The Singer Manufacturing Co. makes more than 1,500,000 sewing machines of 3,000 different types each year in its nine factories.† Its 10,000 stores and 60,000 salesmen cover the world to sell the machines turned out by its 28,000 factory hands. Its symbolic red S is familiar in Germany, South Africa, China. While its officers labor in Manhattan's once tallest Singer Building, its woodsmen chop down millions of board feet of lumber in its Canadian and southern U. S. forests.
To compile the annual report for such an organization is a long, hard task. Every sale, down to the last of the year's 150,000,000 needle production, must be accounted for; every penny spent on advertising or axe-handles must be included. An army of accountants the world over must tussle for months with figures before stockholders may know what they have earned. Last week Singer's President, Sir Douglas Alexander, made public the annual report for 1928.
Golfer, musician, horseman, photographer, Conservative Sir Douglas has been symbolic of his Conservative company. Made a baronet in 1921, he has worked strenuously in both the Manhattan and London offices, has pushed the European development rapidly. Last week he some-what altered his policy of reticence, told stockholders more than the earnings, which were $23,963,688.*
In his statement Sir Douglas expressed concern over continued competition in foreign companies; over unsettled conditions in the potentially great Chinese market; over the inaccessibility of Russia where the Soviet government holds $84,000,000 of Singer assets. Then Sir Douglas told of the counteractive efforts of his sales agencies in opening up new territory even in remote Belgian Congo; in introducing machines to 338,000 pupils in 12,000 European school classes. He announced growth of electrical machine sales which are now half of all sales and which he predicts will eventually be the only kind. Then he mentioned machines capable of sewing heavy leather, rubber, belting, canvas, window shades, bags, mattresses, umbrellas, airplane and automobile upholstery.
† Greatest of these is at Singer, near Glasgow, Scotland. Chief U. S. plants are the one at Elizabethport, N. J., and a cabinet factory at South Bend, Ind.
* The 900,000 shares outstanding are listed on the New York Curb, sell around $540 compared to the 1929 high of 631, low of 530. While this is comparatively high (20 times earnings) for a closely held company with a thin market, Singer shareholders have learned not to sell, for melons have always been generous. This year cash extras of $12.50 have been given in addition to the regular annual $10.