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Secrets of Buying Office Furniture on a Budget

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Secrets of buying office furnitureIf you’re like most people who have shopped for office furniture lately, you’ve no doubt noticed that prices have gone through the roof, and good-quality pieces are even pricier. This makes finding the right furniture challenging, especially if you are trying to stay on budget.

But by knowing a few trade secrets and shopping carefully, you will be in a good position to get the biggest bang for your buck. Crucial catagories to keep in mind as you shop are new versus used office furniture, and imported vs. American-made furniture.

Furniture Imports

If you prefer new furniture for your office, you will find yourself choosing between American-made and imported furniture.

Imported furniture is generally cheaper. It appears to be the most economical choice – at least at first glance. In recent years, many furniture companies have offshored their production to countries such as China, to lower their production costs. Consequently, China is a major exporter of furniture.

However, China has to import most of the wood and other raw materials for its furniture from North America. This adds to its production costs. This means most of the cost savings from imported furniture will come from reduced labor costs – and the lower investment in labor is often reflected in the furniture’s workmanship and quality.

A more accurate way to measure the true cost of your office furniture is in terms of its price to value ratio – that is, how much value you’re getting for the price. Simply put, consider the potential lifespan of the furniture in relation to what you paid for it. Let’s use a concrete example: You pay $500 for a desk, and it lasts three years. However, over its three-year lifespan, you spend another $100 in repairing it therby incurring labor expenses, as well as another $30 in downtime. This means your desk costs $210 a year.

American-Made Furniture

American-made furniture, by contrast, is often too pricy for all but those with the deepest pockets – and even some high-end U.S. manufacturers have taken to offshoring some of their production to shave costs. Still, the difference in quality between American-made and imported furniture can be remarkable especially given that you’re trying to stick to a budget. Ask yourself, will it give you the price to value ratio needed to justify the expense?

One factor to consider is that repair costs will be negligible, since in most cases, high-end manufacturers offer extensive warranties .  This demonstrates their willingness to stand by their products.

Another important factor is durability: High-quality office furniture typically lasts fifteen to twenty years. This means a $3,000 desk lasting fifteen years will cost you $200 a year – about the same annual cost as a cheaper, lower-quality piece that lasts only three years. In most office environments, however, durable, high-end furniture will outlive its purpose, since tastes and office needs will change over its lifespan. Still, for some offices, an investment in such furniture will prove to offer great long-term benefits.

Used Furniture

If you are on a really tight budget, used office furniture can be a viable solution for you. You must, however, keep in mind the good, the bad, and the ugly involved.

First, the good: Used furniture can be significantly less expensive, and if you’re lucky, it can be of good quality. Given the durability of much high-end furniture, there are going to be some good pieces around at a low price point.

The bad: Unfortunately, much used furniture is in poor condition or has been damaged by years of abuse by previous users. Furthermore, it’s not easy to predict which pieces might be damaged or how they were damaged.  When buying used furniture, you are likely to get bad pieces along with good ones – and there is little you can do to control the quality of the pieces you get.

The ugly: When buying used office furniture, choice of styles, colors, and finishes will be limited compared to new office furniture. Remember, styles and tastes change over time, and a lot of the used furniture out there was discarded by its original owners for good reason.  It may be truly ugly. Worse, it might be all that’s available.

Re-Manufactured Office Furniture

Another option for budget-conscious shoppers is re-manufactured furniture, which is meant to give consumers the best of both used and new products. Re-manufacturing involves using parts from used furniture as raw materials, then re-assembling and re-finishing them to create new pieces. The ideal end result is furniture that looks and wear close to new.

Re-manufactured furniture, however, has the same potential problems as the used pieces from which it is made. Dents, dings, and broken parts are inherent risks when buying used furniture, and this damage is often still visible on re-manufactured pieces. More problematic are broken or worn parts, which may not fit properly or may wear out after only a short time.

Because re-manufactured furniture is meant to be a budget option, manufacturers routinely cut corners to pare down production costs. For instance, they will use lower-quality laminates rather than more durable high-pressure laminates, and may use lower-quality paint, which is more susceptible to chips and damage than standard or high-quality paint.

There are a few ways, however, you can make re-manufactured furniture work for you: Look for re-manufactured pieces with a 3-mm edge banding around its edges; this will help protect laminates from cracking or chipping. Seek out furniture with wood work surfaces – these surfaces look great and don’t chip and crack. They cost more than laminate surfaces, but the difference in quality can be worth it.

The bottom line is that price alone should not be your first consideration: The furniture you buy must first and foremost serve all your needs: Is its function appropriate for your business? How practical is it? Does it reflect your company or office image in the way you want? To get the best value for your office furniture, first look at all your needs, then come talk to us, and choose from a place of mutual understanding.

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