Shipments of office furniture fell in January, but orders jumped nearly 7 percent, according to industry research.
Statistics released by the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer's Association (BIFMA) showed that on a year-to-year basis, office furniture shipments fell 3.1 percent to U.S. $635 million, a dip that UBS analyst Margaret Whelan said was not surprising.
"In line with typical seasonal trends, shipments slowed sequentially due in large part to inclement weather," Mr. Whelan wrote in a published research note.
The "pleasant surprise" was the uptick in orders, "which bodes well for the latter part of the first quarter and the beginning of the second quarter," said Tom Reardon, BIFMA spokesman.
Orders rose 6.8 percent to $630 million, according to BIFMA. This increase is a "leading indicator for EPS (earnings per share) performance and a good omen for the upcoming spring selling season," Mr. Whelan wrote.
In addition, Mr. Whelan noted that while non-residential construction -- a key indicator for the office furniture market -- has declined since August 2001, the decline is lessening. Improvement in non-residential construction is expected toward the second half of 2004.
The office furniture industry, which includes companies such as Hon Industries Inc., Herman Miller Inc, and Steelcase Inc., is recovering from a 3-year downturn. Analysts and experts expect the industry to pick up in 2004, particularly in the second half.
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