Office furniture dealers see an unlikely resurgence

Office furniture dealers see an unlikely resurgence


It’s been nearly three years since the COVID-19 pandemic upended office markets around the country, including in Michigan.

As landlords generally have been seeing tenants downsize their footprints or put blocks of space up for sublease, one segment of the office ecosystem has been rebounding since the scary early days of the global health crisis: Furniture dealers.

Companies upgrading their existing offices as incentives to get employees to reduce their time working from home, even if they are smaller footprints, has been an unanticipated boost, some said. Others have seen steady business in other sectors, such as education and health care, helping blunt the blow. And yet many are even outpacing pre-pandemic revenue figures, as painful as the first weeks and months were.

“In 2020, when everything was happening, we were nervous about what our industry was going to do and where it was going to go,” said Natalie Flora, chief creative officer for Interior Environments, which sells Allsteel, Gunlocke and HBF furniture, among others. It has offices in Novi, as well as Denver and Boise.

There was good reason for the nervousness.

According to Grand Rapids-based Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association, the American office furniture market dropped 12.2 percent to $12.94 billion in 2020, down from $14.74 billion in 2019. It was $14.09 billion in 2018 before it jumped 4.6 percent the following year.

In the Detroit area, office usage largely stopped in its tracks as workers were told to work from home to prevent the disease’s spread. The effects of the WFH mandate are still being felt today, and likely will be well into the future.