The office furniture industry is expecting slower growth in 1996 as it continues to cope with a mature market and the move toward lower-cost and refurbished furniture. Total office furniture shipments are expected to reach $9.3 billion in 1995, an increase of 6 percent, according to the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association in Grand Rapids, Mich. For 1996, the association is forecasting growth to slow to 4 percent, with shipments rising to $9.65 billion.
Viewed in inflation-adjusted dollars, the office furniture industry has been a flat market since the early 1980s when office construction was booming.
Increasingly, corporate buyers of office systems are looking for ways to hold down costs. That means a harder look at refurbished furniture and ready-to-assemble goods. And much of the lower-cost and RTA furniture is being pushed through retail channels such as office superstores and warehouse clubs.
``The market is very competitive and it's going through the same rigors as any other mature industry,'' said Russell Coyner, BIFMA executive director.
The result for office furniture makers is continued pressure to become more efficient in a buyer's market. For suppliers, that means continuing efforts to cut costs and increase productivity.
``It's an extremely cost-competitive market,'' said Randy Kortering, director of purchasing operations for Haworth Inc., the Holland, Mich.-based furniture maker.
Plastics processors have traditionally supplied many of the components for office systems, such as table edge banding, seat shells and chair bases.
At Haworth, which reported sales of more than $1 billion in 1994, work has gone into managing rising resin costs, Kortering said. That has been done in cooperation with suppliers, who are promised higher production volumes as Haworth grows internally and by acquisition.