Seating, chairs, stools, guest chairs they all do the same thing right?
Well not exactly and that is the topic of today’s conversation.
In our industry, the commercial office furniture industry, seating makes up over 26% of the total sales volume. That is a lot of chairs, considering this is an $8 Billion industry. That is $2 Billion in chairs. Or at an average price of $300 each 66 million chairs (I will have to check my math on that one, too early in the morning to be certain.) Any way you look at it, that is a lot of chairs.
So what constitutes a chair? Good question. We would look at that and suggest that it is any item that you can sit on. So this would not just include a typical desk chair with arms, back, seat and casters, it would also include the funky snake like cardboard reception seating that was shown at NEOCON the last couple of years. Or the ejection seat type seating introduced there by an Asian company.
NEOCON? You have not heard of NEOCON? Well pull up a chair and sit a spell. NEOCON is the office furniture industry version of Detroit’s Auto Show. Held annually in Chicago at the Merchandise Mart. This event occurs in mid June every year and it is where we get a pulse of where the industry is going. Or more accurately where the manufacturers want to tell us where it is going. The Mart, as we call it, is a one million square foot building with 15 +/- floor s of showrooms for both commercial and residential furniture. And during the show two of the floors are set up with small trade show booths to accommodate those companies that don’t have or want a permanent show room.
So back to seating and our original question. Historically we see that seating started out at a stool or 4 legged chair. As innovation occurred it was transformed into a device that would swivel and roll around. Eventually adding a tilt function so that you could lean back, then came soft upholstery with padding. More evolution has brought us adjustable arms that go up and down, in and out and also swiveling. Even more evolution has added features such as seat sliders, adjustable lumbar supports and mechanisms that are supposed to mimic the human body.
All of this innovation is designed to support the body in a manner that we are not necessarily built for, a life of sitting on our butts. Is it any wonder that we have gotten as big as we have? Sitting around for 8+ hours a day staring at computers and typing on keyboards, is it any wonder that we have as many ailments as we do. Oops, sorry I digress.
So how many types of chairs are there? This is like the question of how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? How much time do you have? How many stars in the sky are there? Here is a short list (just put “Chair” behind each of these :
Ok, I cheated a little, but not really. Some of these can mean the same thing such as Guest and Side. While they can mean the same thing it is also a way of developing marketing for slightly different uses.
So with so many different chairs, how do we select the appropriate one for our needs? This is the best question that you can ask. And we are going to attempt to give you some guidance with an answer.
Seating is an extremely personal item, I mean you put your butt on it every day. And looking around there are a lot of different shaped butts, not that I look that much. So one that fits me may not fit you very well, but this is where the appropriate options come into play.
So lets start at the beginning.
First, how much do you want to spend or don’t want to spend depending on your budgeting technique. Keep in mind that you can spend anywhere from $49.99 to several thousands for a single chair. While we would stay clear of the $49 special for a commercial setting, it has its place. So decide your top dollar amount now. We suggest that you begin in the $250 neighborhood so that you have a options.
Second, what is your décor style of the office, traditional, contemporary, transitional (between traditional and contemporary), space age, high tech? Decide what your tastes are, and then make a decision as to whether you will limit yourself to that style. Will you care if you have a old world desk with a space age chair? This would be a bit of an eclectic look, but could still work if you don’t mind that combination.
Next, what do you do during the day? Talk on the phone, meet with people, type heavily on the computer? All of these functions are different tasks and would require or could use different styles of seating. If you talk on the phone or to people all day then you don’t necessarily need a chair that will support heavy computer use. On the other hand if you do computer work all the time then your chair needs will be different.
This is a good start, in our next episode we will discuss the different features that you will want to explore as part of your selection process.
Till next time.