The Rundown: Week in Review - January 8, 2018

It was back to work last week for the industry after a majority of manufacturers decided to close down most operations between Christmas and New Year's. The industry entered 2018 in pretty good shape, save for Steelcase, which, all things considered, should be doing much better sales and profit-wise than it is. Financial analysts have been down on the stock for some time and one wonders what will it take to put the company on a faster track. It's been more than 10 years since then CEO James P. Hackett (now running Ford) promised Steelcase would be a $4 billion dollar company ( a decade ago). Well, they haven't reached it yet. Hackett's pick for head coach at UofM hasn't faired much better. In three years he has only won one of the six "must win" games against its two rivals (Michigan State and The Ohio State University). After Alabama puts Georgia in its place tonight, it's on to basketball. Meanwhile, the tax-code changes enacted by Congress in December could boost industry growth for the next couple of years, thanks to the ability to take a full write-off on office furnishings. However, demographics are set to hold down workforce participation as baby boomers retire. Meantime productivity growth in the U.S. has sagged since an information technology-fueled surge in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Tax cuts could spur productivity by incentivizing business investment in new equipment, but the effects are uncertain. In any regard, there are a number of areas manufacturers should be (continuing) to concentrate on - with collaborative furniture at the top of the list. The "living room" as workplace isn't going to end anytime soon. Speaking of which, we note the passing of flamboyant hotel designer John Portman at 93. His work as an architect was exemplified by such flamboyant hotels (at the time anyway) as the Marriott Marquis in New York’s Times Square, the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles and the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta with its 22-story atrium and revolving restaurant. He transformed neighborhoods with the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco and the Renaissance Center in Detroit. Looking for work in the mid-1950s, the young architect learned that a downtown Atlanta building was available for redevelopment. He proposed to convert the space into a wholesale furniture market. The owner of the building was unwilling to take on that project but encouraged Mr. Portman to try on his own. So the architect became a real-estate developer and created a business now called AmericasMart. Still owned by the Portman family, it occupies several buildings, providing showrooms for furniture, gifts, apparel and other merchandise. The Atlantan once dubbed the P.T. Barnum of the hotel business (long before Trump was on the scene) was right at home when it was China’s time to leap into the future (hospitality). THIS WEEK they'll be lots of industry related action at CES in Vegas. A number of manufacturers will be there as exhibitors (Humanscale for one), showing just how important and relevant and "on trend" the contract furnishings industry still is. We'll report more on this next week, but it's interesting to not that Metropolis Magazine is going to live stream from the show floor all week. IF YOU ARE READING THIS then you have become a subscriber, member and all-round collaborator of CFN+. I have a unique 42 year prospective to offer on the industry, having reported on it for most of that time. BUT I am looking forward to your comments, opinions and suggestions as CFN moves forward to become the number one source (24x7) for industry news and information. We have lots and lots of great editorial and research planned for the coming year - all with the specific purpose of helping you understand today's rapidly changing workplace environment, and all that entails. So hang on tight, this industry is still relevant and there's much still left to do.

Michael Wolf