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Furniture Supplier Takes Stand for Reused Chairs

Many people judge a company based on the quality of its décor, and pricey Herman Miller chairs are often key elements for well-heeled businesses – or those aiming to appear as such.

While many companies pay as much as $1,000 for a brand-new ergonomic Aeron chair, furniture supplier Beverly Hills Chairs has figured out a way to offer the same product at half the price.

The Westwood business has carved out a niche by acquiring the chairs from companies going out of business or downsizing, refurbishing them, and reselling them to other firms across a variety of industries. Beverly Hills Chairs expanded its product offerings over the summer to include sit-stand desks and last month it hired two additional staff members, bringing its total to eight.

Ryan Sacks, the company’s managing director, said he couldn’t believe how much demand there was for the chairs when he joined the firm three years ago.

“I was blown away by how popular it is and how much office furniture really costs,” Sacks said. “It’s a one-time buy for many people and I realized that if we were able to knock off 40 to 60 percent … we had something going.”

The Aeron chair, which features woven fabric and a shape that helps people distribute their weight evenly, is by far the company’s biggest seller, with prices ranging from $499 to $679.

While new orders often take four to six weeks to deliver from the manufacturer and other traditional retailers, Beverly Hills Chairs said it has been able to gain market share by delivering clients the same chair in what it characterizes as mint condition in a couple of days.

Adam Mendler, chief executive of Westwood’s Veloz Group, a conglomerate of e-commerce and tech startups that includes Beverly Hills Chairs, said the idea and desire for Herman Miller chairs is akin to buying a used luxury car.

“It’s just like people who want to buy a (used) Mercedes or BMW,” Mendler said. “This is one office furniture item where there’s a real cachet to it and a real demand where people are willing to buy the chair even if it’s not brand new.”

Mendler and his brother Jordan, Veloz’s chief technology officer, co-founded Beverly Hills Chairs in 2012. The pair stumbled on the idea after buying office furniture and supplies from a company’s liquidation sale. Included in the items were several Herman Miller chairs, which they were able to quickly resell online.

“(Jordan) realized he could make a little bit of money buying and selling these chairs on the side,” Mendler said. “I got involved and we turned it into a real business.”

Sitting pretty

As companies reduce staff, cease operations, or simply replace furniture, Beverly Hills Chairs steps in to purchase its Herman Miller chairs. The company then inspects and refurbishes them, if necessary, at its Northridge warehouse, which also serves as its fulfillment center. Sacks said Beverly Hills Chairs only acquires chairs less than 2 years old.

“Because there’s so many and because they’re so valuable it’s almost like its own currency,” he said.

When Sacks joined the business, the company mostly sold Aeron chairs through Craigslist. Beverly Hills Chairs grew by creating an e-commerce website and reaching out to a swath of potential customers, both sellers and buyers, through online advertising and referrals. Customers include a range of businesses, including talent agencies, large law firms, and tech startups.

“Over the course of the last five years we have built a strong pipeline of furniture dealers from stores, trade shows, VCs and others,” Sacks said in an email. “They can unload them to Beverly Hills Chairs in bulk as opposed to trying to resell to individuals one by one.”

It has also been able to build relationships with several companies that order additional chairs every few months. For example, the company recently fulfilled an order of 40 chairs for a customer in Portland, Ore. Most of Beverly Hills Chairs’ orders average between 20 to 60 chairs, and Sacks said the company sells about 200 chairs a month on average, with Herman Miller chairs accounting for 60 percent to 70 percent of orders.

The company also carries new office chairs from high-end label Humanscale as well as products from lesser-known brands that cost between $100 and $300, competitive with Office Depot and Staples, Mendler said.

He said the company’s goal is to increase its selection of office furniture outside of chairs and at a variety of price points.

“Our goal is to really do that for lots of different kinds of office furniture,” Mendler said.

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