Trendway Forms Partnership To Enter Office Chair Market

June 14, 2002
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HOLLAND — Trendway Corp. expects to begin production this December on a new line of office chairs that is key to the company’s future growth.

The Holland-based office furniture manufacturer broke ground late last month on a $2 million, 38,000-square-foot plant to produce seating via a joint venture with Interstuhl Buromobel GmbH, a German firm that is one of Europe’s largest seating companies. The new plant will employ 75 people within two years.

The joint venture represents a major strategic initiative for Trendway, which until now has been without a significant seating line to complement its office systems. InterTrend Seating LLC, as the joint venture is known, fills out Trendway’s product line, while enabling Interstuhl to penetrate the key North American market.

Trendway came to the deal with manufacturing and distribution expertise, while Interstuhl provides valuable design and seating expertise. InterTrend will begin shipping product in January.

“In this particular case, their seating lines partner up with everything we have here,” Trendway President Mark Groulx said.

InterTrend plans to adapt and initially produce three of Interstuhl’s 12 seating products for the North American market. The joint venture will eventually develop and produce its own designs.

Right now only a fraction of Trendway’s customers order a chair with their furniture systems. Through InterTrend, Trendway hopes to significantly increase that percentage.

The goal is for InterTrend to reach $25 million in annual sales within three years. Trendway last year recorded sales of nearly $100 million.

Even though the office furniture industry is presently mired in its worst year-to-year sales slump ever, Trendway never considered delaying development of the new plant or launch of the seating line, Groulx said.

Developing a seating line is a top priority for the company. Making the investment now is critical for Trendway, which hopes to double its size within three to five years, Groulx said.

“You can only save so much money. You have to grow your business,” he said. “This economy is not going to stay this way forever and we have to be prepared. It will come back and we’ll be ready.”

Trendway decided to build the new plant adjacent to its present facility in Holland Township in order to leverage its logistical, packaging, purchasing and distribution capabilities. When seats come off the line at the new InterTrend plant, they’ll go to the Trendway facility next door for processing and shipping to customers, Groulx said.

Trendway’s ability to rapidly build and ship an order in a matter of days is critical to the new venture, Groulx said. Building the facility elsewhere would have slowed the distribution process and made the venture cost prohibitive, he said.

“Our model will not work if we’re separated,” Groulx said. “If we want to have a Trendway-InterTrend meeting, it’s ‘See you at the coffee pot.’

“We felt this site, in our own backyard, best suits our needs.” 

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