Gerry Dietz retired as President of R.E. Dietz in 1967, and his brother John became the President. In 1970, they closed the Syracuse factory and moved their remaining kerosene lantern production to Hong Kong.
Ten years later, the Hong Kong factory was manufacturing 1.5 million lanterns per year, becoming a great success. Dietz was still innovating, producing a line of battery powered emergency flashers for highway construction and floating traffic lights for barges. Records from the period show that, at times, Dietz had cash reserves of more than $600,000.
But running the factory half a world away must have been difficult even though Dietz had talented managers in Hong Kong. For example, the â€œ76â€ lantern, meant to commemorate the Bicentennial, was produced two years late, in 1978! That was one year after I started working at Lehman’s, and I still remember receiving the first shipment of those lanterns.
1978 was also the year that John Dietz retired. The presidency was taken over by Edward Reynolds, the first non-family member to run R.E. Dietz. And, demand for Dietz lanterns returned to their old pattern of steady decline. By 1982, sales had fallen by more than 60% and there were less than 100,000 lanterns produced.
By that year, Hong Kong production had become too expensive. Production was moved to mainland China. Demand increased slightly in 1983, but ultimately fell again to former levels of around 100,000 units per year. R.E. Dietz began to experience significant losses. By the 1990’s, it became apparent that Dietz would not survive in its current form.
Employees from that period report that times were stressful. One said the bar across the street from the Dietz offices in Syracuse were often patronized by company managers, even during business hours.
Edward Reynolds was left to preside over the unwinding of the Dietz family’s ownership. R.E. Dietz, however, would continue into the future as a family-owned lantern manufacturer. RE Dietz, LTD, the Hong Kong division of the company, was sold to the Mak family, which still manufactures the lanterns in China today.
The Maks would find that Dietz could not protect its brand as well in China as it once did in the USA. When Dietz designs were imitated in America, the Deitz family was quick to haul the copycats into court. Now, however, all the Dietz lantern patents had expired. Several imitators sprang up in China and in Africa, their leading market. In fact, practically every wick-style camping lantern made today is copied from Dietz designs. All these copies were inferior. The protective plating under the paint sometimes cracked during manufacturing, making the lamps rust. Burners sometimes flamed up uncontrollably. Lighter materials were used, or lower quality glass that broke when heated by the flame.
Through it all, Dietz clung to its old quality standards. They couldn’t keep their lanterns from being copied. But because Dietz kept making lanterns with the same exacting standards, Dietz lanterns today have earned a quality reputation that speaks for itself. There are low-quality imitations available, but Dietz quality and safety always reigns supreme.
One lantern still exists that exceeds Dietz quality. Made in Germany from German components, it uses stronger and thicker materials and is built to higher standards of fit and finish.
In fact, consumers today have three choices. They can buy a low-quality, inferior copycat design made in China. They can buy a “real” Dietz lantern, made in the modern, automated R.E. Deitz Limited factory in China. Or they can buy the heavier, higher quality (and, admittedly much more expensive) German-made Feuerhand lantern.
To learn more about the Dietz lanterns available today, click here!
Read about how Dietz revolutionized lanterns. Click here.
Learn how Dietz managed to survive the Great Depression. Click here.
Discover how Dietz lanterns light America! Click here.