Office furniture buyers are increasingly price-conscious

EVERETT — As it has at most businesses, the recession has changed things at Everett Office Furniture.

Customers are reluctant to spend money. And when they do, they want the most they can get for it.

Owner Brian Hollingshead said he used to be reluctant to put used furniture in a showroom where it could be seen as people walked in the front door.

“I didn’t want people to think we were just a used-furniture store,” Hollingshead said.

Two years ago, used furniture was about 25 percent of the business. Today, about half of what the business sells is used furniture and the other half is new. Most of what you see when you walk in the front door are used items.

Hollingshead said that makes sense since office furniture is usually sturdier than your average furniture made for the home, and most office items are originally guaranteed for 15 years to life.

“You put a desk in a spot and there isn’t much to go wrong with it,” he said. “It’s nice that we’re able to touch it up and give it another life for somebody rather than it going to the dump.”

He said many offices are mixing and matching — buying new desks or chairs and used file cabinets or shelving.

And it’s a good thing that people are more interested in used furniture these days, because Hollingshead is offered a lot more of it.

He said that before the recession, he would get a couple calls a month from someone wanting to sell him their office furnishings. Now he gets three or four calls a week.

“Since the recession, there’s an awful lot of furniture that’s become available,” he said. “A lot of people are downsizing or going out of business. We’ve gotten a lot of stuff from banks and other businesses of all sorts.”

Everett Office Furniture was established 10 years ago based on the model of a Tacoma store that sold new and used items.

Hollingshead has an interior design degree, so his business can help buyers decide what will work in their office space. The business does installation, delivery and repairs.

It will also move office furniture when people want to clean or replace carpets, then return it after the work is done.

Hollingshead said the business recently provided the furniture for the Port of Everett’s new office on the waterfront.

“The port had a desire for an open, industrial design with furniture that was as green as possible,” he said.

So he provided a line of products made in the United States by Global Furniture called Evolve that uses recycled paper, wood, plastics, aluminum, fabric, cardboard, foam and fiber.

Hollingshead said his business represents more than 100 manufacturers in a variety of price ranges.

The port bought three tractor-trailer loads of items for the new space, but Hollingshead is happy just to sell one or two items. “We can sell people on a budget a chair and a $20 desk,” he said.

In addition to two showrooms, he has a basement full of file cabinets and desks and more items at a warehouse.

“We have a large showroom so people can come in and see the furniture in person, do a sit test on a chair to find what works for them,” he said.

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