Jane Brearley (left) says she saved tens of thousands of pounds by buying second-hand office furniture
Funky green chairs. Dark wood for the desks – no white melamine, definitely not. And it has to be wheelchair-friendly.
That’s what Jane Brearley, chief executive and founder of start-up Intent Health, had in mind when she was setting up her firm’s new office in central London.
Accessibility and aesthetics were key – but it didn’t matter if the desks and chairs had already been used by someone else. That just meant they came at a bargain price.
“I probably saved about 19, 20 grand by kitting out with second-hand furniture,” she says.
The pandemic caused a huge shift in working practices. While some have fully embraced working from home, others are returning to the office, perhaps part-time. As a result, many companies are downsizing central offices and that means a glut of second-hand desks, chairs and filing cabinets is available to those who want them.
In Dr Brearley’s case, the new office is sometimes empty since her staff choose to work from home much of the time – but she argues it’s worth having anyway.
“I have young people on the team who are working out of their bedroom or from their kitchen in a flat share, it’s really important that they have a place they can go,” she explains, adding that the office is useful for training, too.
Some of Dr Brearley’s colleagues use wheelchairs so it was important to find furniture that would meet everyone’s needs and also allow for plenty of space in the office.
She was able to source desks, chairs, meeting room equipment and personal lockers from multiple second-hand suppliers. The only thing she struggled to find was sofas, so those came new.
A wide variety of organisations are in the market for second-hand office furniture these days. Even former Prime Minister Liz Truss turned to pre-used kit for her campaign office, according to the firm that says it was the supplier.
It’s not just chairs and tables says Adrian Preston of WantDontWant who has sold a used climbing wall
Besides cost, organisations are also attracted by the idea that re-using furniture is more environmentally friendly, on the whole, than buying it new, says Adrian Preston, managing director of WantDontWant.com.
“There’s so much in the news about reusing, recycling now. They want to be seen to be doing the right thing,” he explains.
Mr Preston’s firm brokers the sale of second-hand furniture between his clients and the companies that are offloading it, rather than stocking large volumes himself. However, one thing he never bothers with is window blinds: “They’re a nightmare because they’re bespoke to the windows they come from and they’re dusty, dirty and grubby.”
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Simon Ward, sales manager at CK Office Furniture says, “We’re seeing companies downsizing because of the new working practices, reducing square footage of their offices and therefore trying to clear furniture.”
It means his firm has the pick of the quality it wants, he adds, noting that second-hand stock is particularly popular with home workers and small firms or start-ups.
The market is certainly very active at the moment, says Karl Ward – no relation – managing director …….