Furniture exec forecasts positive 2019
Haworth CEO says despite cooling global markets, company has momentum in partnerships, development.
Haworth saw 5 percent revenue growth in 2018 and expects another year of cross-segment growth in 2019.
Franco Bianchi is president and CEO of the Holland-based, privately held furniture manufacturer, which reported last month its global sales were at $2.14 billion in 2018, up 5 percent from 2017.
The company marked 70 years in 2018 while introducing new products in its residential and office verticals.
It signed partnerships with Kontich, Belgium-based BuzziSpace, a provider of acoustic and collaborative workspace solutions; and Ebeltoft, Denmark-based Kvadrat, a maker of high-quality contemporary textiles.
It also is “refreshing” its New York and Toronto showrooms to reflect changing customer demand.
The showrooms are powered by Bluescape, a technology platform by the San Carlos, California-based tech company of the same name, which Haworth licenses and which is accessible from any device or location. It provides a “secure virtual collaborative workspace, allowing on-demand, connected and real-time innovation among Haworth, its customers and all key stakeholders,” according to Haworth.
Bianchi said Haworth in 2018 continued to implement “agile workspace” solutions in its three segments: commercial interiors, which encompasses office, education and health care; residential/lifestyle design; and performance technology.
He said the company’s areas of focus in 2019 will be much the same. Commercial interiors will help the customer “tailor their workspaces to their need,” while the residential/lifestyle design segment — which also serves the hospitality industry — will focus on products that can transition for a multitude of settings in numerous combinations.
“Lastly, the third leg of what we operate is what we call performance technology, which is many things,” Bianchi said. “The major product is supplied by … Bluescape, and what they are working on is to expand the reach of this company, get many more clients and lead directly into partnerships with great partners in the market, like Dell, Intel, T-Mobile, etc.”
In many cases, Haworth has signed partnerships with designers and acquired companies that have crossover potential for all three segments, and that will continue, he said.
“Part of the value that we provide is that we offer all opportunities across multiple distribution channels,” Bianchi said.
One factor that could put pressure on the company’s bottom line in 2019, as in 2018, is the potential for additional raw materials tariffs. However, Bianchi said since many of Haworth’s suppliers come from the Americas and not from Europe and Asia, he expects the impact to be “relatively moderate.”
“At the same time, we would jump for joy if tariffs would go away,” he said. “It’s certainly not helping our business.”
Although Bianchi believes 2019 will be a “good year” for the economy, he said it won’t match the “buoyantly positive” 2018. He cited indicators of a slowdown such as stock market volatility and the softening economies of China and the eurozone.
On top of that, competition in the furniture industry remains fierce as major players race to meet the demands of the digital economy, Bianchi said.
“The challenge of the furniture industry is the change of work environment and the redefinition of what is the ‘office’ in office furniture,” he said. “I think the company that’s better could interpret office solutions, the value proposition and how to align to client needs that continue to grow,” he said.
“The companies that are only presenting product struggle every day in an environment that is a lot more transparent, where the competition and the digital economy are upon us.
“I believe that Haworth, as witnessed by the last few years of growth and results, as witnessed by the innovation we provide every day, and by our global footprint … is well positioned to continue to be a leader in this industry transformation.”