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A business consultancy, based in London, England, John Sacks' JSA Consultancy Services provides expert, in-depth, information advice and guidance as to how to exploit successfully the office furniture and interiors markets in Europe, North America, Australasia and Japan.

Office Furniture execs see signs of a rebound

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Executives at Steelcase Inc. and Herman Miller Inc. say they are seeing early signs of improvement.In quarterly reports last week, both companies said their quarter-to-quarter sales grew again, though that’s partly attributable to seasonal factors.While year-to-year sales remain down significantly, order patterns do continue to stabilize as the U.S. economy gradually improves.“Currently, measures of economic health are mixed, but seem to suggest the beginning of a rebound,” Herman Miller President and CEO Brian Walker told brokerage analysts. “Today, we are hopeful that conditions are beginning to improve.”The Zeeland-based Herman Miller [Nasdaq: MLHR] reported sales of $343.7 million for the quarter that ended Nov. 28, down 27.9 percent from a year earlier but up 6.1 percent from the previous quarter.Net income totaled $9.6 million, versus $32.6 million a year earlier.Herman Miller’s orders picked up 7.3 percent from the previous quarter.Midway through its 2010 fiscal year, Herman Miller’s sales are off 30.1 percent, to $667.7 million, and net income is down 72 percent, to $18.0 million.Grand Rapids-based Steelcase [NYSE: SCS] reported a 6.5 percent quarter-to-quarter increase in sales but a 24.1 percent decline from a year earlier, to $616.1 million.Steelcase broke even for the third quarter of FY 2010.Year-to-date sales are off 31.2 percent, to $1.73 billion, with break-even net income.Sequential quarterly revenue growth, combined with stabilizing day-to-day order rates and a return of “modest” year-end business, “is further evidence that the first quarter of this fiscal year may have represented the low-water mark for Steelcase in this recession,” Chief Financial Officer David Sylvester said.Hackett. Just as it lagged the U.S. recession a year ago, office furniture will again lag a recovery, Steelcase President and CEO James Hackett said. The lag typically lasts two quarters on either side of a recession, he said.“But this recession was faster on the way in (for) our industry. What happens on the way out remains to be seen,” Hackett said. “I can, however, confidently say we are beginning to see factual evidence of trends moving in the right direction.”Steelcase expects sales of about $570 million for the present fourth quarter of FY 2010, which compares to $654.9 million a year ago, and break-even net income.

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