Big Question February 2017

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How has the furniture supply sector changed over the last five/ten years?

Heather Zweimueller, Wiesner-Hager
Workplace furniture designs have become commodity items. They must meet certain functional criteria and price often drives purchasing decisions.  Larger corporate clients often only want to work directly with manufacturers and are switching from regional to international purchasing processes, signing framework contracts valid for all their locations. Clients increasingly look for a ‘one stop shop’ – suppliers who can offer a complete package perfectly tailored to their needs.

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Wynn Morris, Godfrey Syrett
Perhaps one of the biggest changes we’ve seen over the last few years is the increasing involvement of main contractors in projects, which has led to a change in the way we supply our products to the marketplace. We’ve seen a shift in recent years in the way that universities manage their accommodation. In the past, this would have been managed in-house, from design and build through to maintenance. Now, it’s increasingly more common for a main contractor to be appointed to manage the whole build process.

BG Feb17.03Roger Croft, Technique Resolutions
One change I’ve noticed is that, as FM’s become more ‘professional’, they have become a lot more knowledgeable about what they want and how they want to achieve it. Traditionally the domain of the specifiers, FM’s are now ‘leading’ the specifiers to solutions (Sit/Stand being a typical example) suitable for their own companies’ methods. They are also, thankfully for us, putting a real value on ‘after sales service’ which for too long has not been an important issue.

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Oliver Bond, Connection
Dealers and manufacturers alike have become increasingly knowledgeable and informed about the holistic working environment and not just the products that occupy the space. The most successful now add huge value to their customer by helping them achieve core business goals through a thorough understanding of the way people work and by being able to plan and create environments that improve productivity and attract great talent.

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Caroline Pearce-Browne, Reps Limited
Over the past 10 years we’ve seen a move away from architects defining furniture specs to supplying the look and feel for the dealers to respond to. As Client Reps we expect to work with the modern dealer to be able to marry the designer’s look and feel with what we know client specific requirements to be, for example cost, culture or practicality.

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Stephen J Russell, Edge Design & Pledge Chairs
Suppliers have had to become far more responsive and look far wider for inspiration. The definition in terms of style, design and finishes between office, domestic and leisure has become blurred and the Coworking ‘revolution’ has stimulated new areas of creativity. The impact of imports from the Far East and Eastern Europe has been a challenge but UK manufacturers have responded well with competitive pricing and well designed, creative products.