Lakeshore and Manufacturing

Dunlap & Associates working with European analyst

Mike Dunlap sees U.S. commercial furniture makers doing well in 2014.

December 27, 2013
| By Pete Daly |
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John Sacks’ JSA Consultancy Services, based in central London, and Michael A. Dunlap & Associates in Holland are combining their talents and intellectual assets into a collaborative venture providing information for and about the commercial furniture industries in North America and Europe.

For the past several years, Sacks has compiled and distributed regular reports to subscribers in his publication, European Standings, which covers the market shares and financial performance of U.K. and European office furniture manufacturers and dealers. These tables are compiled from both publicly available information and information provided by the companies themselves.

“Our current subscribers find this information to be exceptionally valuable and help them better understand the markets in which they operate, as well as the relative performance of their own businesses,” said Sacks.

“Mike and I have chosen to collaborate to produce and distribute similar reports on a quarterly basis for the 50 largest commercial furniture manufacturers in the North American markets, using publicly available information for the publicly listed companies, commercial databases, directly provided information, and our own estimates.”

JSA and MADA have already worked together informally for several years, exchanging data and global market intelligence, according to Dunlap.

“It’s a good fit for both of us, and the timing is right for our clients,” he added.

Their focus is on commercial furniture industries that supply office environments and related furniture for educational facilities, health care centers and the hotel industry.

“We hope to expand into other regions such as Australia, China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Middle East, Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and others that have an impact on this ever-expanding global industry,” added Dunlap.

The new North American Standings will be available by annual subscription, and will be published quarterly. The first edition will be issued in January. 

Dunlap said both JSA and MADA are viewed as the premier resources for information regarding the U.K., European, Canadian and U.S. commercial furniture industries.

The two firms will continue to operate autonomously and will continue their individual businesses as they have for more than a decade.

Demand for commercial furniture in Europe has been flat, said Dunlap, although it now appears to be improving very slowly, with the U.K. and Germany leading the way. 

Dunlap said office furniture is a clear reflection of a nation’s economy, with business growth usually entailing new and expanded office space for additional employees. The European economy’s recovery is heavily dependent on getting past the fiscal problems that have been centered in Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

The story is different in the U.S.

“I think 2014 is going to be the best year that this industry has seen since the falloff in 2008,” said Dunlap. He added it won’t match the sales volume of 2000, “but I anticipate we’ll see growth rates in the range of 6 to 7 percent in this market.”

“North America is leading the rest of the world in terms of its recovery,” he said, noting the U.S. office furniture market has steadily improved since 2010.

Dunlap’s connection with JSA has provided him with European information that shows the strong presence of West Michigan’s “Big Three” there. The company with the most commercial furniture sales in Europe is Kinnarps, a Swedish firm with annual sales equivalent to about $500 million, “which would put them about one-third the size of Haworth,” noted Dunlap.

The second largest player in the European market is Steelcase, which is also “far and away the largest” office furniture manufacturer in the world, according to Dunlap.

Haworth is estimated by JSA to be No. 9 in the European market, while Herman Miller is 21st.

But Steelcase and Herman Miller both have business relationships with companies among the four largest Japanese office furniture makers, and both Steelcase and Haworth have a presence in India. India has a growing office furniture market because of so many Fortune 500 companies that have opened offices there.

Dunlap said there is a Canadian sleeper that may actually be the world’s second-largest office furniture maker. That company is Global, a privately held and very private global corporation based in the Toronto area.

“A lot of people would really like to know what their gross sales are,” said Dunlap.

Global was founded by Saul Feldberg in 1966, and the business is still owned and managed by the Feldberg family, with brothers Joel and David Feldberg leading the major divisions. Global also includes Teknion Corp.

As for imports of office furniture into the U.S., Canada was previously the leader but has been replaced by China, according to Dunlap.

Office furniture manufacturing is “certainly growing” in China, he said. That nation “represents the largest group of imported commercial furniture” into the U.S., having surpassed Canada about four years ago.

So far, that business is not hurting U.S. manufacturers significantly, according to Dunlap. The Chinese are bringing in large quantities of standardized products and are able to secure small and medium-sized dealers here.

Dunlap describes the Chinese contract furniture now as “high quality but budget priced.”

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