BIFMA Sees More Of The Same

March 21, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — The final tally shows office furniture shipments fell by $2.3 billion in 2001, a decrease that represents more than five years of sales growth for the industry.

The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association reports that industrywide shipments totaled $10.97 billion for last year, down 17.8 percent from the $13.28 billion of 2000 and representing by far the single-worst year-to-year sales downturn the industry has ever experienced.

The downturn was so large, in fact, that it exceeds that annual sales volume of either industry giants Herman Miller Inc. or Haworth Inc., both of which recorded revenues of a little more than $2 billion in their most recent fiscal years.

“It’s just incredible, really,” said Mike Regan, BIFMA’s manager of administrative and statistical services.

The industry ended the year just as it began — with another sales slide. Industrywide shipments for December totaled $770 million, down 30.6 percent from the $1.11 billion recorded in December 2000 when the downturn began.

BIFMA will now take the final totals from December and plug them into an economic model to generate an updated outlook for the industry.

The last outlook issued in November, prepared by DRI-WEFA, projected another 8.8 percent decline in industrywide shipments for 2002, to $9.95 billion, with a “modest recovery” beginning late this year and continuing into 2003.

The sales total for 2002 was slightly better than the Grand Rapids-based trade association expected in the November forecast, which was yet another downgrading in the industry’s outlook in wake of the U.S. economic recession.

Regan expects the updated forecast, due out later this week, will not reflect any other downgrading and may even offer a slight upgrade that reflects improving economic conditions, although any changes from the November outlook will be minimal.

“I don’t think anybody expects any dramatic change at this point,” Regan said. “I don’t think it’s going to be bells and whistles or anything like that.”

The industry downturn resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs, many of them in West Michigan, as manufacturers closed plants and cut production. The downturn has filtered down to the supplier level, where two area companies — Hansen Manufacturing in Holland and Douglas, and Spectra Products in Grand Haven — decided to cease operations.

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