Looking Ahead In The New Year
Written By Rob Kirkbride, Write Office • January 3, 2023
Citi Square™ - Global
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Featured Brand: Global and EzoBord
Last issue, we looked at what we learned in 2022. This time around I’m going to look into the crystal ball and try to predict what I see coming for the industry in 2023. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I see the coming year as a strong one for the industry. Important factors such as job growth and corporate earnings remain solid even though commercial real estate is soft.
So what else can we expect in 2023? Here’s my take, though predicting the future is treacherous, to say the least. After all, George Will said: “The future has a way of arriving unannounced.”
Manufacturers are going to consolidate. Every time there is an industry downturn, I predict we are going to see consolidation and it never seems to happen. Sure, we were shocked in 2021 when Herman Miller acquired Knoll, the largest-ever merger the industry has ever seen and almost certainly ever will. But beyond that, mergers and acquisitions have been slow in the office furniture world (not counting the dealer community, which we outlined in the last issue of the Insider).
I predict 2023 is going to be the Year of Consolidation. Several manufacturers are ripe for the picking – too large to grow more on their own and too small to make a mark without added firepower. I’m not here to name names. I’ll leave that up to you to speculate over.
Fulton Market will look less and less appealing as an alternative for theMART. Can someone please help me understand the move to Fulton Market? I understand that manufacturers might not like the obvious limitations at theMART, but I don’t understand how so many brands seem to think Fulton Market is going to be better.
Brands like Herman Miller and Knoll moving to Fulton Market made some sense since both have strong retail sales and a following that extends far beyond the office furniture market. They are big enough and attractive enough that people will follow them to the hip Chicago neighborhood. I’m not so sure about some of the others who have followed them there.
Don’t get me wrong: Fulton Market is cool. It has great restaurants and a lot of buzz going for it. But manufacturers need to be honest with themselves and ask a simple question: Is my brand strong enough to attract its own crowds to Fulton Market? If the answer is any shade of “no,” the brand has no business even considering a move from theMART. Some of these smaller brands seem to forget there is safety (and success) in numbers.
Data will dominate. Data has driven business decisions for many industries but because of the size of ours, hasn’t made deep inroads. Of course, every company runs on data, but when it comes to the office furniture industry, that data hasn’t run deep.
That is beginning to change and companies who ignore the data or can’t analyze it correctly are in danger. Rich data can help companies understand their customers, improve customer service and streamline over-complicated processes. Data can also help our industry create better design decisions and market to the right people. Beware. Bad data is worse than no data at all and there’s a lot of B.S. floating around the industry right now. Make sure you have a trusted partner that can help you sort it all out.
The push for a four-day workweek will begin. While the work from home movement continues to sputter out as managers begin to realize how much productivity and creativity is being lost, new ideas for how we can work better are desperately needed.
The time for a four-day workweek has come and we will continue to move toward it in 2023. A number of companies worldwide have shifted to a four-day workweek for a year or more, and Japan’s government has recommended it as national policy. A major shift in how we think about and approach work is a precursor to standardizing a four-day workweek, but I think it is an idea that deserves consideration. As an industry it is far more appealing than the work from home or hybrid work trends since offices still remain the core of any four-day workweek plan.
Reimagining the office will continue. Redefining, rethinking and redesigning the world’s offices is the most important opportunity in the history of the office furniture industry. It has already begun, but will continue in earnest in 2023. Everything pales in comparison to this critical job.
If we do this right by working closely with our customers, guiding them to the most efficient, collaborative design, we will be handsomely rewarded. If we fail, I fear for the long-term health of the industry. We’ve often talked about the office of the future, but in the past it was theoretical. Now it matters and the world is watching.
This industry has the know-how and products to do the job. But it is going to take courage to tell our customers they are moving in the wrong direction (if they are) and guide them to the right place even if they don’t think it’s where they want to head. We need to be firm in our resolve to help them find the right way to work and bold in our suggestions.
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