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Haworth prepares for tough 2009, reports $1.65 billion in 2008 sales

Thursday 12 February 2009

After posting flat sales for 2008, Haworth Inc. is preparing for a tough time in 2009 and possibly longer with the office furniture industry\'s volumes expected to decline amid global economic uncertainty.

As the industry moves further into a downturn, Haworth and other office furniture makers are at least better positioned to weather the situation than they were during the dramatic decline the industry experienced from 2001-03, CEO Franco Bianchi said.

The industry lacks the excess capacity it had going into the last downturn, Bianchi said.

\"We have companies that are more flexible today so we can adjust up and down easier than we all were doing then,\" Bianchi said. \"Instead of slashing and burning everywhere.\"

The Holland-based Haworth this morning said it generated 2008 global sales of $1.65 billion, just shy of the $1.66 billion in 2007. The privately-held company does not disclose earnings, though Bianchi said Haworth was profitable in 2008.

Bianchi termed 2008 a \"good, but not great\" year, though he sees much tougher sledding ahead in 2009 and a potentially prolonged downturn.

\"We are not in the middle of a normal bump. We are approaching it as this recession is here to stay for a while. It\'s clearly more serious than 2001 was,\" he said.

The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association\'s outlook presently predicts an 11.6 decline in shipments for 2009. An updated quarterly outlook is due out soon, including final shipment levels for 2008.

Haworth\'s orders softened during the latter part of the year, leading to a December decision to close the Allegan seating plant and eliminate 350 positions through voluntary separations.

Bianchi said Haworth will take further action if needed to respond to lower sales volumes.

\"The question is how you adjust the business for 2009, which is what we are busy doing, but in a way to build the foundation to come out of this stronger and truly gain market share,\" he said.

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