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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.

Steelcase growing market share as need for offices shrink

Thursday 12 July 2012

Steelcase is gaining – or perhaps regaining – its market share.

Much of that turnaround is in the U.S. where the office furniture-maker has seen 19 percent growth in the last two years. The company’s share of the U.S. contract furniture sales market has climbed to more than 20 percent.
This may be a strong indicator that Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett’s future-focus strategy, which plays up the use of technology, is paying off.
“It was never about the technology for me,” Hackett said during the company’s annual shareholders meeting Wednesday. “It was about the forces that affect people.”

These forces are important when you are in the business of selling office furniture at a time when many people can get their work done outside the office.

While Hackett acknowledges the traditional office is changing as workers become more mobile and companies more global, he doesn’t expect the office to disappear. Just like the emergence of televised sermons didn’t spell doom for churches because people still wanted a communal gathering that comes with attending services.

“In 1996, (Microsoft founder) Bill Gates asked me 'Why do we need the office?',” said Hackett, who became president in 1994. “Technology won’t stop us from coming together to collaborate and innovate.”

Steelcase continues to emphasize a focus on research that helps the company pinpoint emerging work trends.

“We translate these insights into products and applications for customers,” Hackett said. “Today we believe our customers turn to Steelcase not just because of what we make, but what we know.”

Steelcase's growth has also come from expanding its reach beyond the traditional office environment to hotels, classrooms and health care facilities.

“The nature of work has become more complex and the needs are more difficult to discern,” Hackett said, noting he is often chided for not talking enough about office furniture when he discusses the future of work.

Steelcase is applying the same strategy that grew its U.S. market share to Europe, where the debt crisis is fuelling continuing economic woes.

“Our goal is not to hunker down but to use these bad times to get ready for good times,” Chairman Rob Pew told shareholders.

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