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Latest BIFMA forecast predicts better 4th quarter for 2010

Tuesday 30 November 2010

The office furniture industry, after a tough period that saw nearly one-third of its volume disappear during the recession, should finish 2010 on the upswing, according to an updated and upgraded outlook issued today.

The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association now projects North American shipments will grow 4.4 percent for the year to $8.2 billion. The industry will then see shipments increase a further 8.8 percent in 2011 to $8.9 billion, BIFMA project.
The latest outlook represents a complete turnaround from earlier this year. The prior forecast, issued in August, predicted flat sales in 2010, followed by 6.7 percent growth in 2011. As recently as May, the industry was looking at a decline of about 5 percent for 2010.

If the new quarterly outlook holds, the industry would grow this year for the first time since 2007, when shipments increased 5.5 percent.

The deep economic recession that hit in late 2008 sent the industry into a tailspin, cutting shipments in 2009 by 29.7 percent, or $3.32 billion.
Given all that’s occurring in the economy, BIFMA Executive Director Tom Reardon views the projection are both reasonable and sustainable.

“It’s not a big bounce, but a healthy bounce,” Reardon said.

The outlook reflects the slow, steady improvement in the U.S. economy, though the industry has a long ways to go to recover what it lost in the recession, he said.

“That was a deep hole we fell into,” Reardon said. “It’s going to take some pretty big numbers to get back to where we were, and that’s going to take a while.”

The updated outlook, prepared for BIFMA by Global Insight, comes as business for office furniture makers has steadily rebounded throughout 2010.

The industry started 2010 with an 11 percent year-to-year decline in North American shipments for the first quarter. Business improved in the second quarter with a 3.6 percent increase in shipments and accelerated in the third quarter to an 11.7 percent increase over the same period in 2009.

Fourth quarter shipment trends “mirror the third” and should produce “more of the same,” Reardon said.

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