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Office furniture index plummets as manufacturers cut jobs, production

Friday 30 January 2009

After going through an unprecedented downturn early this decade, and as manufacturers cut jobs and curtail production amid lower sales, the latest activity index shows in the office furniture industry moving into another \"dark\" period.

Based on surveys with executives at office furniture makers and their suppliers, the industry index from Michael A. Dunlap & Associates in West Olive plummeted to an overall score of 46.17, its lowest rating since in began in August 2004.

The January result compares with the previous all-time low of 49.21 in April 2008.

\"There is no doubt that the industry is re-entering a dark business period, due to an unprecedented global economic storm,\" Michael Dunlap said today. \"This quarter has shown a decline that was worse than I had anticipated three and even six months ago.\"

Nine of the 10 indicators used in the index declined from the prior survey three months earlier. The lone improvement came in raw material prices, which Dunlap said was expected given the lower costs of oil and metals.

Otherwise, Dunlap said, \"it doesn\'t look very optimistic.\"

The personal outlook index among executives at manufacturers plunged to 37.04, the first time it\'s ever been in the 30s. Executives at suppliers, Dunlap said, \"are even more pessimistic.\"

The Grand Rapids-based Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association\'s most recent outlook issued in November predicted an 11.6 percent decline in shipments in 2009 to $9.9 billion.

That would follow an anticipated 1.8 percent decline in shipments in 2008 to $11.2 billion, breaking a string of four straight years of growth that came after a harsh downturn from 2001 to 20003 that cost the industry more than 35 percent of its volume.

An updated BIFMA outlook, including final results on 2008 shipments, is due out soon.

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