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Industry & Trends

Herman Miller Buys Knoll as Commercial Furniture Markets Shrink


April 20, 2021 | Bill Esler

Zeeland, MI
– Knoll will be acquired by Herman Miller, in a $1.8 billion deal expected to close third quarter of 2021. The combined companies, with $3.6 billion in pro forma revenue, will be headed by Andi Owen (below), CEO of Herman Miller (NASDAQ: MLHR). CEO Andrew Cogan of Knoll (NYSE: KNL) will retire. 

Andi Owen, CEO of Herman Miller

While Herman Miller, Inc. projects $100 million in cost saving synergies, the deal reflects the massive reset taking place in the commercial furniture marketplace. Unlike residential furniture makers, whose sales are booming, business furniture companies have been hit by the suspension of activities in key markets – office furniture, restaurants, and hotels – during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Knoll reported a 15.8% decline in fourth-quarter sales ($312.9 million) and a 13.4% drop for the year, to $1,236.4 million. Herman Miller, which has been more successful at reaching consumer buyers for work-at-home or crossover sales (e.g. its Design Within Reach business), reported an 11% drop in sales for its most recent quarter ($590.5 million). And though Herman Miller contract sales fell 35%, retail sales to consumers grew 63%. 

Eames chair by Herman Miller

Upon completion of the transaction, Herman Miller shareholders will own approximately 78% of the combined company; Knoll shareholders will own approximately 22%.

Along with a storied design history – Herman Miller is identified with the Eames chair (above); Knoll with architects Eero Saarinen (his Womb chair below) and Mies Van Der Rohe – the two firms have 19 leading brands, presence across more than 100 countries worldwide, a global dealer network, 64 showrooms globally, more than 50 physical retail locations and global multi-channel eCommerce capabilities. 

Womb chair by Knoll and architect Eero Saarinen

“This transaction brings together two pioneering icons of design with strong businesses, attractive portfolios and long histories of innovation,” says Owen. “As distributed working models become the new normal for companies, businesses are re-imagining the office to foster collaboration, culture and focused work, while supporting a growing remote employee base.” 

Owen says consumers are making significant investments in their homes, and the merger improves the two companies’ abilities “to meet our customers everywhere they live and work.”

Owen says Herman Miller and Knoll both have cultures guided by values that support problem-solving design, and doing well by doing good. “These shared beliefs will contribute to a smooth integration,” Owens says.

Knoll was founded in New York City in 1938 by Hans Knoll. Production facilities were moved to Pennsylvania in 1950. After the death of Hans in 1955, his wife Florence Knoll took over as head of the company. Headquartered in East Greenville, PA, manufacturing sites are located in East Greenville, and in Grand Rapids and Muskegon in Michigan; in Toronto; and in Italy.

Herman Miller began in 1905, evolving today into Herman Miller Group, a family of brands that collectively offers a variety of products for environments where people live, learn, work, and heal. The family of brands includes Colebrook Bosson Saunders, Design Within Reach, Geiger, HAY, Maars Living Walls, Maharam, naughtone, Nemschoff, and Herman Miller.


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