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Marcel Wiethoff for HBF

The Director of HBF Asia Pacific Limited, Marcel Wiethoff, tells us how the leading premium contract furnishings provider is taking on the region with its extensive product portfolio and quality designs.

Marcel Wiethoff for HBF


February 5th, 2014

With a history spanning more than three decades, Hickory Business Furniture – known as HBF – is today widely recognised as a leader in the premium contract furnishings industry with manufacturing facilities in the USA. It is also a wholly-owned subsidiary of HNI Corporation, the second largest office furniture company in the world.

With the recent launch of an Asia Pacific office, we speak with its Director Marcel Wiethoff about the company’s design ethos, creative collaborations, it’s plans in the region, and more.

Nest Collection

HBF has a diverse range of products within its portfolio. Is there a common design ethos connecting the products you put out in the market.

HBF holds a unique position in the contract furnishings industry, offering a diverse portfolio of products bound together by an ethos of design that defines and refines the concept of modern elegance. A commitment to design excellence is woven throughout the culture of HBF and reflected in the company’s collaboration with designers with a wide range of aesthetical approaches.

(Left) November Series. (Right) Oval Egg Series

HBF works with many different designers. How do you choose who to work with?

HBF’s award-winning products have received national and international acclaim in all product categories. Our success is dependent upon two goals: To build high quality products that offer value to our clients, and to produce good designs that sell.

This has led to a strategy of working with some of the most creative and established product designers in the world, including but not limited to: Barbara Barry, Orlando Diaz-Azcuy, Robert A.M. Stern, Yves Behar, Mario Ruiz and Todd Bracher. Distinguished by the rare quality of its handcrafted designer originals, HBF has set a benchmark for the art and craft of furniture making while creating products that are usable and relevant: simple, functional, and elegant. Modern design is not only about new concepts and forms, but what is intrinsically valuable and will last – above all, timeless.

November Series

Why the decision to set up a textile division in the late 1980s? How significant is this division for HBF today?

HBF Textiles, a division of HBF, supplies a variety of distinctively designed upholstery fabrics and leathers, as well as drapery and sheer materials, to the contract industry. It creates a complementary presence for us in the margin-rich textile and wall covering categories with additional opportunities to extend our reach into new consumer markets.

Flight Series

How long has HBF been active in the Asian market? How significant is the Asian market, in particular the Hong Kong and China market, for HBF?

The Asia Pacific region is highly significant for HBF – it has half of the world’s population and its 21 economies have a combined GDP of over $39 trillion. This is about half of the world’s economic output.

In August 2013, HBF Asia Pacific was established to actively promote the HBF brand in the region. The Hong Kong based entity is building upon HBF’s well-established presence in the architectural and design community and our key strategy is to build a high-end brand reputation in the Asia Pacific region through relevant and compelling differentiation: “World Renowned Designer Originals – Handcrafted in the USA”.

Dialogue Chair

What are the important workplace trends that HBF has identified, and what sort of impact is this having on the company’s product development?

There are many trends taking place in the workplace. Anticipating these trends, understanding their impact on the business, and being able to meet the challenges they present is critical to our success and product development.

Diversity in demographics, culture and skills is one of the most impactful trends in emerging markets. There is an abundance of discussions about Digital Natives, GenY or Millennials and there is an increasing effort to obtain and retain talent. The younger generation demands greater flexibility, while Baby Boomers, with a wealth of knowledge and experience, may not be as tech-savvy as their younger counterparts, preferring instead traditional workspace models.

Successful organisations must be able to engage workers across the age-spectrum with a mix of dynamic and collaborative workspaces.

C Collection

Are there any needs unique to the Hong Kong and China market when it comes to products for the workplace? How does HBF address these needs?

Our commitment to our customers and the environment, together with execution in design and manufacturing ensures a built environment that reflects quality and timeless design. To succeed we must clearly understand the buying motives of our target audiences and we have to be able to create value for their projects and real estate strategies. The markets here are changing very fast and to help navigate through these changes, we must work closely with our clients and the architecture and design community to help future-proof their strategy with solutions that are relevant today and tomorrow.

Asa Series

What can we expect from HBF in 2014?

A lot of good energy and exciting news… Planned investments include a brand refresh, a website redesign, and seasonal new product launches. Most importantly, we will celebrate with partners and friends, the Grand Opening of our new flagship showroom in Hong Kong in 2014.


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