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Wednesday, 05 September 2012 16:34

Haworth-AIS deal broadens small business reach

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The AIS Divi line. The AIS Divi line.

HOLLAND — Haworth Inc. has acquired a strategic interest in Hudson, Mass.-based AIS, a manufacturer of office furniture and seating.

The Holland-based office furniture manufacturer recently issued a statement to its dealers in late August notifying them of the deal.

“This very much is a dealer project and a dealer announcement, and we want to work with them on this announcement,” Julie Smith, spokesperson for Haworth, told MiBiz. “This is about our distribution channel.”

In the note to dealers, Haworth Vice President of Global Sales Todd James said the association with AIS will help dealers broaden their product portfolio to better serve small and midsized businesses. AIS Executive Vice President Rob Lazarus characterized the agreement as “a mutual opportunity” for both companies.

Both Haworth and AIS, two private companies, are mum on the terms of their agreement. Smith said she couldn’t comment on whether the association would lead to any further transactions with the company.

Haworth is currently working with its dealers to introduce them to the people and products from AIS, Smith said.

She said the move helps Haworth dealers offer a wider selection of products and gets them more products to serve the growing small and medium-sized business markets, which the company already reaches via its Start-It-Up program and its alliances with Groupe Lacasse and United Chair.

“What we believe we have finally achieved is the right mix of products for our dealers,” Smith said.

As MiBiz previously reported, Zeeland-based Herman Miller Inc. also has growth plans for the small business market.

Randy DeBoer, president of Interphase Interiors Inc., Haworth’s West Michigan dealer with offices in Grand Rapids and Traverse City, told MiBiz he’d have to wait to learn more about the product line and pricing to get a better assessment of how the AIS portfolio might fit into his company’s sales strategy.

He said Interphase has had good luck selling Haworth’s existing product lines to small businesses and low-volume buyers, but he cautioned West Michigan’s office furniture buying habits are not typical.

“This market is different than other parts of the country,” he said. “So much is focused on the Big Three (Steelcase, Herman Miller and Haworth) because all are headquartered here. The level of competition from other manufacturers is different than it might be on the East or West Coast just because a lot of the businesses locally like to buy products from manufacturers that are making the product here.”

Read 5570 times Last modified on Monday, 10 September 2012 17:06

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