Zeeland, MI - Herman Miller, Inc. (NASDAQ: MLHR) announced results after the market closed today for its first quarter ended August 29, 2015. Net sales in the quarter were $565.4 million, an increase of 10.9% from the same quarter last fiscal year. The commercial furniture maker said new orders in the first quarter of $563.3 million were 9.0% above the prior year level, and North American sales were up 6.8%. The company noted it recorded its highest operating margin in six years.

Herman Miller's North American Sales increased 6.8% year-over-year

CEO Brian Walker said, “We are encouraged by our overall operating performance this quarter, which reflects improvements in a number of key areas. We were particularly pleased to see improved momentum in our North American segment, which posted year-over-year order growth of 6%. This represents a marked improvement over last quarter’s growth rate, and provides solid evidence that we’re focused on the right actions to re-invigorate growth in this business. While we clearly have more work to do, we feel good about our progress and the level of commitment being demonstrated by our people at all levels of the organization.”

Jeff Stutz, Chief Financial Officer, added, "These results reflect our commitment to strong operational execution across our traditional lines of business and our strategic focus on higher margin products and channels. This quarter we delivered better than expected sales growth, meaningful gross margin expansion, and well-managed operating expenses. This combination of factors drove a 17% year over year increase in adjusted operating earnings and moved our consolidated operating margin to its highest level in more than six years.”

Acquisition Helps Gross Margin Improve

The company said costs from its first quarter acquisition of Design Within Reach inventories impacted its gross margin by $3 million, but the gross margin still improved from  36.4% in last year's first quarter to 38.3% this year. It attributed its improvement in gross margin primarily to favorable product and channel mix, including the addition of Design Within Reach, favorable commodity levels, continued operational improvements, and pricing realization, which more than offset the unfavorable currency translation impact from a stronger U.S. dollar.

Second Quarter Fiscal 2016 Guidance

Looking forward, Herman Miller expects net sales in the second quarter of fiscal 2016 to be in the range of $570 million to $590 million. The furniture maker said this forecast implies sales growth of approximately 5% at the mid-point of the range.

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