First she shopped new, then she shopped used. At Davies Office Refurbishing in Albany, N.Y., Kerri Winters, then a facilities manager at small-but-growing software maker MapInfo, in nearby Troy, uncovered "the roomful of dazzling fabrics and laminates that convinced me." Winters's decision to go secondhand rather than mint saved her nearly 25% on the 150 workstations she had to reoutfit for an office move. Not only was the renovated equipment as sturdy as new, says Winters, but customer service was robust as well: Davies helped design the layout and then returned afterward to touch up the goods.

Large-corporation downsizing has fueled an expanding market in recycled office furnishings, and value-conscious buyers like Winters have been only too happy to absorb the deluge of preowned desks, chairs, tables, and panels that, sold scuffed and bruised "as-is," offer savings of as much as 80% off the manufacturer's list price. Even after they're given "like new" upholstery and veneer, used work surfaces and chairs still save a consumer as much as 74% over new ones. (See table at right.) Large dealers like Davies often negotiate long-term leasing deals. And the truly budget-minded will find a few dealers willing to barter.

The market for used office furniture is already worth $800 million annually in the United States, but if corporate downsizing continues, experts estimate, the figure could triple to $2.5 billion by the year 2000. Right now, however, only some 50 of the nation's 3,000 or so office-furniture refurbishers have enough inventory to accommodate needs as large as MapInfo's. Before you shop, send for a free directory of recycled-furniture dealers that are members of a trade group that's trying to centralize a largely mom-and-pop market. The directory's 250-plus entries, segmented by region, describe the size of each facility, its product lines, and its services. Send a request on letterhead to National Office Products Association, attention Office Furniture Recyclers' Forum, 301 North Fairfax St., Alexandria, VA 22314. -- Researched by Karen E. Carney

* * *

Cost Cutting: Shopping for the Recycled Office
A purchaser of reconditioned furnishings (see "Big Business's Yard Sale," above) can save as much as 74% off discounted list prices and still get quality goods. To pin down representative bargains,
Inc. did its own comparison shopping among five remanufacturers, using new stock from manufacturer Steelcase to establish suggested retail prices. (Street discounts of up to 20% can be expected from Steelcase dealers.) Remanufacturers' prices are for "almost new" condition, with seating redone in the customer's choice of standard materials and wood surfaces refinished in walnut veneer.

* * *
Inc.' s office, new versus recycled: Price for
Manufacturer's remanufactured
Item list price goods
Four wood-frame upholstered chairs $3,032 $534 to $1,060
72-by-20-inch credenza with two lateral files $2,166 $540 to $758
72-by-36-inch dual three-drawer pedestal desk $2,102 $624 to $750
Two upholstered guest armchairs $1,682 $300 to $588
42-inch wood-veneer conference table $1,656 $210 to $580
Upholstered swivel-tilt desk chair $1,169 $220 to $409
TOTAL $11,807 $2,428 to $4,145

(after 20% discount: $9,446)

-- K.E.C.

* * *