The Business of Furniture | February 3, 2021 – Reprint

The Business of Furniture | February 3, 2021 – Reprint

Clear Office Cover page

Clear Office Connects Used Office Furniture Sellers to Buyers

COMMERCIAL FURNITURE ISN’T LIKE A BIC LIGHTER THAT IS PURCHASED AND THROWN AWAY. IT IS A VALUABLE ASSET IF THE SELLER AND BUYER CAN CONNECT. THAT’S WHAT CLEAR OFFICE IS DESIGNED TO DO.

by Rob Kirkbride

The office furniture in-dustry has always had a love-hate relationship with furniture. On one hand, the industry creates such robustly built products with the right care they can last decades. On the other hand, used office furniture is a pain to deal with. Almost all customers want the old furniture gone, and they don’t particularly care where it goes. That means most of it ends up in a landfill.

It is a shameful part of the industry. The furniture that comes out of companies is al-most always usable, but there is no large scale market that connects buyers and sellers of these perfectly good products — until now.Enter Clear Office, a new company founded by an industry veteran that does just that. Clear Office creates a market-place for companies to get rid of their old furniture while

12

The Business of Furniture | Subscribe at bellowpress.com | February 3, 2021

top industry news

creating an attractive website for designers to acquire used products for a fraction of the price.

Clear Office was founded by Brandi Susewitz, who has more than 20 years experience at San Francisco Bay area office furniture dealerships, but like so many others, found her income battered by the pandemic. At the same time, her husband, Eric, also in the office furniture industry, was laid off. Few were buying new office furniture and the products Susewitz had in the pipeline had been put on hold or cancelled. “I considered changing my profession altogether, but what was really concerning me was the pre-owned office furniture market,” she said. “See, I had just read an article where I learned that 17 billion pounds of office furniture ends up in our landfills each

13

The Business of Furniture | Subscribe at bellowpress.com | February 3, 2021

top industry news

year and now with the reality of the pandemic, I could see that number getting much larger.” She researched the issue and couldn’t find a website where you could buy and sell your used office furniture, add it to a cart and checkout with a delivery/installation option. She said she knew the used office furniture industry was broken and thought it was the perfect time to try to fix it by making it easier for people to buy and sell their unwanted office furniture. Clear Office was her idea — the first online marketplace for companies to buy and sell their pre-owned office furniture. Companies can get rid of their used office furniture easily while making a little money and customers can buy it using an attractive website that makes it easy to shop for products. For sellers, there are three tiers. The first is the Pro Option Plan, the place for used office

furniture dealers to sell. This is for used dealers who have experience selling used furniture. Under the Pro Option Plan, the seller earns 70% of the sale. Clear Office gives the seller all the tools needed and the platform to communicate directly with potential buyers. The second tier is the Personal Option. This is for the company that wants to sell their own furniture but do not have a platform to do it. Clear Office helps the customer post the furniture and fill out information. Clear Office communicates with potential buyers and only involves the customer when the furniture is ready to be picked up or shipped. Under the Personal Option, the seller earns 30% of the profit. Finally, Clear Office has a Full Service Plan. Under this plan, Clear Office does all the legwork getting involved in every aspect of the sale of the furniture. Clear Office provides everything needed. The seller earns 15% of the profit.

14

The Business of Furniture | Subscribe at bellowpress.com | February 3, 2021

top industry news

From the buyer’s perspective, Clear Office creates an attractive website for buying products at huge savings. For example, an Allermuir Conic Lounge Chair, which lists for $1,200 was being sold for $200. An Eames Rocking Shell Chair that lists for $900 is listed on the Clear Office website for $500.“A lot of people are disappointed when they go online and they can’t actually find a website where they can sell or buy their office furniture,” Susewitz said. “Facility managers aren’t going to go to Craigslist. They’re not going to go to eBay because it’s not the right platform. Then I started to do research about just how much office furniture waste was out there. And it’s huge. … it made me start thinking about all the clients that I’ve had over the years and a very common scenario that I’ve seen over and over and over again. And this is pretty much like 99% of the time.”

It goes something like this: A facility man-ager is told by management the company will be relocating to a new facility and won’t be bringing any of their office furniture. The thing is, the furniture is only a few years old. Over the next several months, most of the facility manager’s time is spent planning for the new building. The next thing they know, they have the responsibility of quickly vacating the of-fice space without a plan for the used furniture. They think about posting the furniture on Craigslist or eBay, but soon realize it’s not the right method. They call a used office furniture broker to “buy” the furniture, but because the facility manager waited until the last minute, there wasn’t an adequate amount of time to properly market the furniture. The broker ends up charging thousands of dollars in labor to re-move the office furniture from the building, and most of it ends up in a landfill since the broker

15

The Business of Furniture | Subscribe at bellowpress.com | February 3, 2021

top industry news

can’t find a buyer either. In some cases, the broker does end up finding a buyer for the office furniture and makes a huge profit on it, none of which goes to the facility manager’s company. Susewitz said commercial furniture isn’t like a Bic lighter that is purchased and thrown away. It is a valuable asset if the seller and buyer can connect. That’s what Clear Office is designed to do.“On the flip side, we wanted it to be easy for architects and designers to be able to shop for already existing materials and be able to put them into projects that they’re working on,” she said. “In the past, they weren’t able to do that because, you know, where do you go to find

used office furniture? And when you do find it, it’s usually only available for like two, three weeks. You’ve got to make a quick decision and then that opportunity is gone.By connecting buyer and seller, the office furniture is put back into use and avoids the landfill.Clear Office is up and running, but needs more sellers to list furniture since it makes most sense for the transactions to be local. Shipping used office furniture, especially in small quantities, is very expensive and Clear Office will run most efficiently when it connects local buyers and sellers. Listing products on the site is free.

16

The Business of Furniture | Subscribe at bellowpress.com | February 3, 2021

top industry news

clear office seller plans work the way you want to work

Though still in its infancy, Clear Office is get-ting a lot of attention from both investors who want to back the company as it taps into the huge market and from designers from companies as large as Gensler, who are committed to the environment and like the idea of buying

used instead of new where it makes sense.

Clear Office is a business model that works best when facility managers are proactive. They have to post furniture early, which allows them to make the most for the used furniture while giving buyers the chance to see it and plan for its acquisition and purchase. Susewitz also expects the website to evolve as more and more people go to it as a source for furniture. Clear Office is not an office furniture refurbishing company, but Susewitz said it could participate in that in the future.“I’m so excited,” she said. “This really happened because of COVID. It gave me the time that I needed to be able to research everything and get everything in line. I mean, if COVID didn’t happen, I would have never done this. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about literally for 20 years.” BoF

17

The Business of Furniture | Subscribe at bellowpress.com | February 3, 2021

Leave a Reply