Things are looking up for the office and contract furniture industry, which is projecting its best year for shipments since 2008.

“The latest quarterly office furniture shipments forecast prepared by IHS Global Insight predicts shipments of $9.6 billion during calendar year 2013, which is a 3.4% increase over the $9.3 billion expected in 2012,” said Tom Reardon, executive director of the Business & Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Assn.

For 2013, he said, “The slow rate of employment growth, new office construction investment, and overall tepid economic growth continue to present a challenging environment for the office furniture industry. Expansion into other vertical furniture market segments such as educational and healthcare furniture provides opportunities for manufacturers interested in expanding their market focus. Some international markets (like the Middle East) also present significant growth opportunities.”

Although Canada continues to be the primary trading partner with the United States for office furniture, receiving approximately 50 percent of U.S. exports, China is providing competition for imports. According to information from BIFMA, Canada’s share of office furniture imports into the United States has decreased from 62 percent in 2000 to 40 percent today, while China has increased its share from less than 13 percent to around 40 percent during the same period.

One of the opportunities for manufacturers to increase domestic sales is in green certified furniture, which continues to grow in demand. In addition to BIFMA’s success level certification program, the ANSI/BIFMA e3-2012 Furniture Sustainability Standard was recently revised to include an additional point for furniture products that meet a new, lower formaldehyde emissions limit.

The re-examination of California Technical Bulletin 117 for furniture flammability will also impact U.S. producers in 2013. “The anticipated revision to the TB 117 flammability standard should allow the production of furniture without the need to add chemical flame retardants to foam in upholstered seating products,” Reardon noted.

Click here to read additional comments from Tom Reardon, executive director of the Business & Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association

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