Trendway Reinvents Interstuhl Deal

April 9, 2004
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HOLLAND — After reaching a new point in their business ties, Trendway Corp. and a European office-seating company have restructured a 3-year-old joint venture that established both in the North American seating market.

The Holland-based office furniture maker has acquired Interstuhl Buromobel GmbH's interest in InterTrend, which became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Trendway on April 2.

While Trendway and the German-based Interstuhl will still do business together, the arrangement is no longer exclusive for either party. Under the change, Interstuhl is now free to pitch its seating designs to other office makers and Trendway can partner with another party to develop, produce and bring new seating lines to market.

Under the joint venture, formed in June 2001, the two companies developed seating lines for the North American market exclusively with each other and in 2002 built a 38,000-square-foot chair plant north of Holland, adjacent to Trendway's facility.

"Now, having done a number of things and worked together for some time, it just started to look like both partners might be better off if we took a non-exclusive approach," Trendway Marketing and Communications Director Susan Zalnis said. "We plan to continue working with them. They'll come to us like any vendor approaches a customer."

The joint venture provided Trendway a far stronger market position in office seating. The company, which saw sales rise 11 percent in 2003 as the overall industry continued to decline, previously had a limited seating product line and formed the joint venture to use Interstuhl's European designs to develop new products for North America to sell with its office systems.

The joint venture led to the 2002 introduction of the "Quincy" and "In" office chairs, which Zalnis said have been "very successful" products. Quincy became Trendway's best selling seating product.

For Interstuhl, the partnership with Trendway gave the company an immediate access for its European designs to the lucrative U.S. market that it has been unable to tap for years.

Buying out the German firm's interest in the joint venture and switching to a non-exclusive arrangement stems from Interstuhl wanting to bring additional European designs to North America that "just didn't fit" with Trendway's market niche, Zalnis said.

"It really gives us a nice opportunity to now move forward but still work together," she said.

At the same time, Trendway wants to expand its seating product portfolio and is examining potential designs.

"We definitely want to continue to expand that product line, but we haven't settled on any partner or design," Zalnis said.

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