Should I Buy Name Brand Office Furniture?

Did you know there are hundreds of commercial furniture brands in the United States? In that sea of choices, what is the difference? Does it make sense to go with a brand you know?

November 15, 2021

Name an office furniture brand?…go ahead…we have time…..

If you are like most people, you may have been able to name 1-3. Maybe Herman Miller came to mind because you know their iconic chairs. Perhaps you know Steelcase because it is the world’s largest commercial manufacturer. Does Haworth, Knoll, Kimball or Allsteel round out your list?

Did you know there are hundreds of commercial furniture brands in the United States? In that sea of choices, what is the difference? Does it make sense to go with a brand you know?

For comparison, the commercial furniture industry is much like the car industry. Distribution of furniture, like cars is set up through a network of dealers. If you want to buy a BMW, you will have to go to the BMW dealer in town to get one. There is only 1 BMW or Mercedes dealership per market. If you do not like the one in your market…tough. You can buy a used BMW anywhere but for a new one or certified service you only have one choice. The same is true for furniture, there is only one Herman Miller dealer in town, and they have the power to set prices as they want if you just have to have that specific chair. 

The major furniture manufacturers are much like the BMW, Jaguar, and Mercedes of the world. They do put out an excellent product and many of the iconic advances in the industry came from them.  They also pay for the marketing teams to be sure you know that.

That is where the analogy ends. Unlike cars, there are hundreds of, non – aligned manufacturers which have multiple competing dealers in town. This gives you choice. It is like there were 100+ Ford, Toyota, or Chevy level cars to choose from and could get a new one from any dealer you wanted. 

These dealers have focused on being fast to market, copying the best of the major brands and responding quickly to change. There is no sacrifice for quality. The major difference is they spend less on marketing to interior designers and funding workspace research. That is why they are usually names you have not heard of unless you are from the industry. 

Instead of going with a brand just because you have heard of it before, you should ask your furniture dealer the following questions. 

  1. What is the warrantee on the product? Run away from anything less than 3 years.
  2. Is it ANSI-BIFMA rated? This means it has been tested for commercial use and is of the same quality as any brand name in the market
  3. How long has the company been in business? You want to be sure you can get something to match if you need it.
  4. Is there a local installation you can see? Nothing beats seeing a product after it has been used to see how it has stood up.

If you like to be the first person to have something, like the latest upgrade version of a sports car, and enjoy that status then the major lines are for you. If you are a Fortune 50 company with the buying power to negotiate for directly with the manufacturer then by all means, stay with the Herman Miller’s of the world. You are getting a great deal or getting the status you paid for.

If you want to quality product for a great value and don’t really care if your office chair was in a design magazine, then just be sure you ask the questions above and you can be confident in your purchase.

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