Jason Reveals Top Secrets Of The Office Furniture Industry

Part of the: Office Fitout Collection

I come from 80 years of office furniture heritage. My dad was in office furniture and his dad was in second hand office furniture. My family discusses all things office furniture; from suppliers to where the industry is going. We also deliberate how JasonL can continually improve and stay ahead of the competition. I often get asked; why is your task chair so much cheaper than Schiavello or more expensive than Officeworks. Designers often ask; why are your workstations so much cheaper than AWM’s. Another common discussion is; what are the differences between buying from JasonL and Ikea. I am going to provide you with an inside look into a changing industry before addressing the aforementioned questions. 

An overview of the office furniture industry

The office furniture industry, for as long as I can remember, has revolved around a dealer-based business buying from a local wholesale network. I understand why and how this has occurred. Setting up an office is not an easy process. The sales person on the other side of the phone often acts as an expert, almost as an outsourced project manager. They help with the layout and highlight the issues that need to be considered; such as electrical, ergonomics and workflow. They find solutions to reduce noise and improve privacy. I don’t believe you are going to get this sort of service from the big retailers if you walk into one of their hundreds of stores? At the other end of the spectrum in the office furniture industry you have the titans; Schiavello and Zenith. These guys are great marketers and networkers who have entrenched themselves in the design and construct markets. They need the million dollar contracts to keep their machines running and people employed. They generally sell through designers specifying there products or directly through their own design and construct sister companies. Then there are the new kids on the block, the disruptors, and we would like to consider ourselves one of them. JasonL uses a direct-product business model combined with emerging technologies to disrupt both the dealer market and the contract market. We don’t have the huge overheads of marketing teams, in-house designers and massive factories. We therefore, like Ikea, are able to pick, pack and deliver our products Australia wide within days. We have used best practice technologies in implementing our website design and functionality as well as in our scheduling and delivery. We believe we are world leaders in the way we allow people to build office workstations and chairs. The way we allow customers to buy products from images of our past fit-outs is also a first in the industry. We provide design and layout services by training overseas staff in best practice space planning and work flow methodology.

Why is there such a huge price difference between high-end brands and generic furniture companies?

I believe the high-end producers of office furniture charge the prices they do due to the following factors:
  1. Large infrastructure to support
  2. Marketing budgets
  3. Custom furniture
  4. R & D costs in new product development
These guys are trendsetters and design leaders, no one can argue with that. This, however, comes with costs that need to be recouped. They also don’t compete on price as much as middle-market companies and therefore providing great value is not something they focus on. The office furniture companies in the middle of the market take inspiration from the high-end brands and then work out ways to commercialize the look and feel for the middle-market clientele, who are more focused on price then aesthetics.

Custom furniture V.S Modular furniture

This is a controversial topic around my dinner table. Whether the office design includes custom furniture or cheaper standardized modular office furniture depends on who is putting together the office concept. We believe a unique look and feel can be created without the need of custom sizes and fabrics. We use what Ikea has done to the kitchen market as inspiration. Modular products provide enough flexibility and unique options without the unnecessary cost of made-to-order items. Change the colour of the doors and the finish of the handles but use the same carcass. We have built a retail business model based on this simple concept. Select a workstation; there are 3 different colour tops in 3 different sizes, 3 different colour legs and 8 colours of screens. You get the point!

Commercial quality furniture V.S Domestic furniture, What is the difference?

This is a simple differentiator, commercial products sold into commercial environments simply needs to be stronger. Office furniture is used much more than home furniture and therefore has quicker wear and tear. A chair with a 1-year warranty sold into the home will last 1 year. Take that same chair and put it into your workplace, sit on it for 6–8 hours a day and very quickly the foam collapses and you will be sitting on a piece of wood. You spend more time on your office chair then your bed, just saying! Don’t go cheap on it; your backside will thank you.

JasonL Team

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1 comment

Great article. Makes a lot of sense. Love your work and products.


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