Furniture leaders speak on pandemic impact
During a 15-month period with an unusual level of disruption, the West Michigan commercial furniture and design industry rebounded faster than expected, but according to three local CEOs, challenges remain.To get more news about Home furniture manufacturer, you can visit beour.com official website.
The Economic Club of Grand Rapids on May 17 hosted a panel discussion, “Shaping the Workplace,” featuring Andi Owen, Franco Bianchi and Jim Keane, presidents and CEOs of Herman Miller, Haworth and Steelcase, respectively.
The trio shared insights on workplace trends prior, during and post-pandemic; sales channels; and corporate responsibility, including environmental and social health and wellness.
Deirdre Jimenez, president and CEO of Grand Rapids-based Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA), moderated the discussion.
Jimenez noted in her opening remarks that “the pandemic paused projects, stalled commercial real estate transactions and slowed new product orders,” leading to softening revenue in the U.S. commercial furniture industry. However, while the financial impact of the pandemic for 2020 was originally forecast to be a 20% decline, the year finished with a 13% decline.
“IHS (Markit) forecast that the furniture industry will slowly continue to rebound in 2021 and 2022, and signs are already pointing in the right direction,” she said. “According to a recent Bloomberg report, office searches that had been postponed are reactivating, fueled by a pursuit for less expensive rates and more concessions from landlords who are eager to bring people back to their buildings. According to property data from (Design Trade Service), which tracks office tours, national demand for office space jumped 28% in March from the prior month and is now just 9% below pre-pandemic levels.”
Additionally, February architectural billing index data showed upticks in design contracts and billing for the first time since the pandemic, Jimenez said.
“These signals would indicate that companies are planning a return to the office, and with the CDC lifting guidelines, that shift will be happening sooner rather than later,” she said. “The amount of office space companies need may change, but with change often comes remodels, and with remodels often comes new furniture.”
For years before the pandemic, Jimenez said strategies gaining momentum included the open office and remote work, which evolved from being mobile within one’s office through the creation of “neighborhoods” to being able to shift from working from home to working in the office through the use of “hoteling” stations in the workplace and performance seating at home.
When the pandemic hit, shelter-in-place restrictions forced the accelerated adoption of remote work, and people quickly discovered their non-ergonomic home furniture — sitting at the kitchen table or working in bed all day — wasn’t cutting it.
Owen said Herman Miller adapted to the increased demand for home office solutions by continuing its residential office catalog, upgrading its e-commerce delivery platforms, tailoring its logistics to deliver to individuals as well as businesses, and adding five U.S. retail stores and one in Tokyo. She said it might sound counterintuitive to expand brick-and-mortar during a pandemic but sinking real estate prices made it a risk worth taking.
“Our strategy at Herman Miller is really the idea of meeting our customers wherever and everywhere that they are,” she said. “… Our customers are very intentional, and they want and need advice from product specialists, especially in the home office category.”