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Green's the theme at NeoCon: many exhibitors touted the environmental qualities of their products at North America's largest contract furnishings show. (Design Lines).

While the contract furniture industry continues to face a depressed market, NeoCon exhibitors put their best face forward with a gaggle of new designs.

According to Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., which produces the show, NeoCon 2002 drew a total of 40,000 registrants, a figure that includes both exhibitors and attendees. That number is more than 23% lower than the 53,677 registrants claimed last year. MMPI said the show had about 1,000 exhibiting companies, the same as last year.

Trends from the Showrooms

Powder coating on MDF furniture, which debuted with a splash in 2000 but seemed to scale back a bit in 2001, returned in force. Herman Miller, for example, displayed a clear powder coating on MDF parts as an option for its Ethospace and Resolve lines. Numerous other manufacturers, both large and small, showed powder-coated MDF furniture, often pointing to powder's environmental qualifies as a selling point.

Environmental issues as a whole seemed to be a bigger part of the sales pitches in the showrooms this year than they did in 2001. KI, for example, pointed to a new UV-cured finish on its library furniture, while Virco said it planned to be largely waste-free by 2003. Virco also said it had replaced all wet paint lines with powder; its wood products use traditional finishes but are outsourced. Dar/Ran Furniture Industries offered a variety of environmentally friendly options on its Gapella tables, including tops made of sunflower seeds, recycled metal shavings in a hard plastic resin, or powder-coated metal.

RELATED ARTICLE: Office Furniture Makers Endure Business Drought

Office furniture shipments will probably not make a strong rebound until office construction substantially picks up, according to Allen Gutheim, principal of DRI - WEFA Consulting Group.

Speaking at the annual membership meeting of the Business & Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Assn. -- International, held June 12 in Chicago, Gutheim said the current U.S. office shipment decline "is the worst in 30 years." He noted that while home construction has held its own during the economic slowdown, construction of office and institutional buildings is down 20 percent "I see this office building construction decline continuing for the next few quarters."

Gutheim, whose company tracks and forecasts office and contract furniture shipments for BIFMA. said office furniture shipments fell 17.4 percent last year and are on pace to decline by an additional 13.3 percent this year. If office building construction picks up by next spring Gutheim says office furniture shipments should rally by 8.8 percent

In other business, Bill Rubino, president of Jofco Inc., was elected 2002-03 BIFMA president, succeeding Jack Michaels of HON Ind. Tom Sehrer of Magna Design was elected treasurer, replacing Tim Schad of Nucraft Furniture. Steve Gane, president of HBF, and P. Daniel Miller, president of Kimball Office Group, were each elected to second terms as BIFMA directors.

Rich Christianson
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Article Details
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Author:Freund, Bernadette
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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