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Updated US office furniture outlook sees larger decline this year, bigger rebound in 2011

Thursday 27 May 2010

The US office furniture industry will decline a little deeper this year than previously forecast, then mount a stronger rebound in 2011, according to an updated outlook.

The latest quarterly outlook from the Grand Rapids-based Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association predicts a 5.1 percent decline in industry-wide shipments in 2010 to $7.45 billion. An earlier outlook issued three months ago forecast a 3.8 percent shipment decline.

As the U.S. economy slowly improves, North American shipments should rebound by 11.1 percent, to $8.27 billion, in 2011, according to the BIFMA outlook. The February outlook forecast 7.0 percent shipment growth in 2011.
The updated outlook from Global Insight is in line with previous quarterly forecasts that for several quarters predicted a 2010 decline in the mid-single digits, BIFMA Executive Director Tom Reardon said.

The industry’s slow recovery from its deepest ever one-year decline — 29.7 percent in 2009 — is following the national economy.

“My perspective was nothing has really changed,” Reardon said of the outlook.

Through the first quarter, industry shipments declined 11 percent from 2009 — to $1.70 billion from $1.91 billion — though decreases moderated month to month.

And for the first time in a year and a half, monthly orders grew to end the first quarter, increasing 5 percent in March from the same month in 2009, Reardon said.

The data indicates the industry has likely bottomed out and is headed for a recovery, said Reardon, who remains cautious.

“One data point does not a trend make,” he quipped. “We’ll know more in a few months if this trend is sustainable.\"

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