CaseLabs President: Tariffs Drove Us Out of Business

CaseLabs, the California-based PC case maker with a reputation for premium build quality, announced on Saturday that it will be closing its doors permanently. Additionally, it won't be able to ship its entire backlog of existing orders.

The company made the announcement on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, as well as on the top of its website. CaseLabs wrote that " [w]e have been forced into bankruptcy and liquidation," and suggested that "[t]he tariffs have played a major role raising prices by almost 80% (partly due to associated shortages), which cut deeply into our margins." Additionally, the statement mentions the "default of a large account."

The company closure could mean the loss of more than a dozen US jobs.

"We had about 22 employees at the start," CaseLabs president Jim Keating told Tom's Hardware over email. "We’re now down to 16. Some have been with us for 15-20 years or more. They are all at our Canoga Park facility [in California]. It’s an awful situation."

When asked about the tariffs, however, Keating said that "[m]ost of the information I have around the tariffs have been provided by our material distributors, so I can’t confirm the accuracy of it, but believe it to be true."

Keating suggested that the tariffs began affecting the company in January. That tracks with announcements by the Trump administration, as well as when tariffs began on solar panels and washing machines. According to the Washington Post, steel and aluminum prices both increased dramatically afterwards. Keating said that CaseLabs materials went from a "high $1.50s per pound" in the fourth quarter of 2017 to "mid $2.80s now." Tom's Hardware reached out to the White House for comment on tariff effects on US companies, and we'll update this story if we hear back.

There was a last-ditch effort so save the company that failed The company's statement mentions a "possible deal" that could have saved the company. CaseLabs was considering some outsourcing and downsizing to save itself.

"I can’t say much about the deal except to say that it was a company in Europe with their own manufacturing resources," Keating said. "The US facility would have been downsized, but kept operating to fill custom case orders for law enforcement and other government agencies. Unless another company steps in, we will move ahead with liquidation."

The company said in its statement that it is attempting to ship as many orders as possible, but that the company won't be able to fulfill all of them. Parts should all ship.

The administration is still moving forward with more tariffs, including transistors, circuit boards, flat panel displays and more, which could have broader effects on the PC industry.

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  • jabliese
    It is hard to imagine the price driver for a "premium build quality" manufacturer is it's raw materials. Methinks there is more of a story behind "the default of a large account."
  • littleleo
  • Integr8d
    Agreed. Don't get me wrong. My (whatever model) CL case is >awesome<. It weighs a good chunk too. But if the cost of the aluminum, to make it, going from $45 to $87 (IN A CASE THAT I PAID WELL-OVER $600 FOR) was enough to take down CL, that company wasn't doing so hot anyway. And given how long they've been around, their initial long-term assets were paid down quite a while ago (unless it's common to bank roll a metal bending machine for 3 decades). So if this was enough to tip it, their running costs were extremely poorly-managed. And to be honest, the owner is probably happy to quit wasting his/her/their time with a profitless company...

    But as you said, 'more of a story'.