GRAND RAPIDS – Shipments of office furniture are expected to decline about 5% in 2010 to $7.4 billion, this on the heels of an approximate decrease of 30% in 2009.

These numbers are a far cry from the $13.3 billion shipment record the industry set in 2000, according to the latest forecast released by the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers.

BIFMA notes in its 2009 fourth quarte newsletter, “(T)hese bleak statistics don’t tell the whole story. Based on shipment numbers alone (an industry down 44% from its peak) one might expect dramatic consolidation and wholesale business closures. While there has been some consolidation through acquisitions and a few companies closing down, there have also been several new company start-ups during this time. U.S. Bureau of the Census data indicates a small (3%) decline in the total number of furniture manufacturing companies between 2002 and 2007.

“Another factor is that the sales volume data cited above are for office furniture shipments only. Many companies that historically focused on office furniture manufacturing are now diversifying their product lines to include educational, hospitality and healthcare furniture products, and these shipment volumes are not included in the office furniture shipments numbers referenced above. So, in many cases a company’s total sales volume has not declined to the same degree as office furniture shipments.

“Additionally, as a result of technological advances (i.e. wireless capability, flat screens, etc.) and facility cost containment goals, as well as overall manufacturing efficiencies, workstations are generally becoming smaller and less complex, and therefore less costly. For example, the typical workstation that may have cost $3,000 years ago might cost $2,200 today. So even if the industry were selling the same total number of workstations it would likely result in a lower total shipment dollar value.”

Click here for historical office furniture shipment info through 2008.

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