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BIFMA reports Office Furniture Orders up Slightly

Thursday 4 September 2008

The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association said July shipments rose 1 percent to $930 million, year-over-year.
Office furniture orders rose just 1 percent in July to $940 million compared with a year earlier, but in a sign that things may turn worse, year-to-date orders and shipments were flat.

The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association said July shipments rose 1 percent to $930 million, year-over-year, buy the organization now expects possible double-digit declines in 2009.

While July was reasonably good - all things considered, BIFMA says it expects full-year orders and shipments to fall 2.4 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively. In 2009, BIFMA is now projecting a severe drop in both orders and shipments of slightly more than 10 percent.

In a note to clients, Raymond James analyst Budd Bugatch wrote that demand has yet to collapse, but it has slowed after mid-to-high single-digit growth in 2006 and mid-single-digit growth in 2007

Bugatch has a fairly cautious outlook for the office furniture industry is based on deterioration in macroeconomic drivers such as business confidence, corporate profits and new office construction. All this even before we know who will occupy the White House next year.

\"Despite our concern that industry demand will remain challenged for the next several months or more, we would reiterate our belief that any downturn will not match the magnitude of the 2001-2003 decline,\" Bugatch wrote.

He reaffirmed his \"outperform\" ratings on Herman Miller Inc and Knoll Inc and his \"market perform\" ratings on Steelcase Inc and HNI Corp .

\"We would remind investors that due to its exposure to small business, HNI will likely be the first among peers to benefit when the economy begins to recover,\" Bugatch wrote.

Herman Miller has lessened its reliance on the North American office furniture market by expanding its health-care business and developing emerging technologies, he said.

Knoll focuses on higher-end products, which generate attractive profit margins, he concluded.

BIFMA compiled its July report from 38 companies that account for about 75 percent of the industry\'s volume.

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