According to Tom Reardon, executive director of the Business & Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Assn., 2012 shipments from U.S.-based manufacturers are projected to reach $9.3 billion to $9.5 billion, down slightly from anticipated 2011 figures of $9.5 billion in sales.
For 2012, he said, “The biggest challenge will probably continue to be the slowly recovering economy and the low rate of employment growth that we’re experiencing. The fact that this year is an election year may make some segments of the economy cautious about committing to expansion until the path ahead is somewhat clearer. Not that the path forward is ever clearly defined.
“Many furniture manufacturers find opportunities by diversifying into other vertical market segments such as education, healthcare and hospitality, and I expect that trend will continue. From an association standpoint, I see many opportunities for collaboration in areas that can provide efficiencies for the entire industry, such as developing standards for healthcare furniture, and developing tools to more consistently define sustainability,” Reardon said.
Reardon noted that the office furniture industry continues to see demand for green certified products. “We continue to see customers looking for increasingly sustainable product alternatives. And as the science of sustainability continues to evolve, we become more proficient at defining exactly what that means. The level® certification program now boasts 33 manufacturers with over 1,500 certified products, and we’re looking at how the standard and the certification program will evolve going forward.”
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