industry insider | Dec 14, 2020 |
Why a commercial furniture maker just snapped up a residential brand

After two years of collaborating together on special projects, two outdoor furniture brands are making things official: The commercial-focused Landscape Forms has acquired residential brand Loll Designs.

The Kalamazoo, Michigan–based Landscape Forms was founded by a landscape architect in 1969 and has grown into a formidable player in the outdoor furniture category, with a client roster that includes Harvard University, Barclays Center, Google and Microsoft. CEO Marjorie Simmons tells BOH that the company has long had an internal growth goal of doubling sales every six years, but recently reached a point where that would not be possible without moving into mergers and acquisitions.

Loll Designs was formed with a focus on creating outdoor furniture out of recycled plastic. For founder Greg Benson, who has grown the Duluth, Minnesota–based brand from a solo project to a company of more than 80 employees, the merger comes at a moment when he was already thinking about how to keep the company going while pivoting personally. “I started making chairs in 2001, so it’s been nearly 20 years of my life. I had been thinking about what might be next for me, but I also wanted what would be best for Loll Designs, and how I could expand the longevity of what I created,” he says. “We had been collaborating with Landscape Forms since 2018, so I already knew that there was a creative and cultural fit between our two companies. So, the fact that it was them who would be doing the acquisition was as important to me as the timing of the sale.”

Both Simmons and Benson emphasize that the new partnership was a simply a matter of good timing, not a fire sale or financial necessity. “Financially, Loll has had its best year ever, and our retail partners, Design Within Reach and Room & Board have also seen incredible sales this year,” says Benson. Simmons adds that they aren’t trying to fix something that isn’t broken, but rather to grow both companies and learn from each other’s strengths. The two companies will officially merge on December 31 of this year. Driving down lead times for Loll Designs products, which have ballooned to 12 to 16 weeks as a result of the pandemic, will be an initial priority.

Sustainability will continue to be a driving principle for Loll, which makes its products out of recycled plastic. It’s also a key moment where the Landscape Forms team hopes to learn from the best practices Benson has built into his brand. “Sustainability is important to Landscape Forms, but it’s really what Loll does,” says Simmons. “We’re looking forward to exploring ways they can help us improve on that front.”

Landscape Forms has been looking for ways to develop and market its residential offerings—another area they hope will be helped by Loll’s existing relationships with retailers. “We have a select portfolio of our products that we think would be successful in the residential market, but it’s something that we need to look at building upon, and we think that Loll is an excellent partner for that,” says Simmons.

Simmons says that though the timing might seem strange given the economic turbulence caused by the pandemic, it’s actually the perfect time for such a move. “A lot of companies will take the approach of just hunkering down and weathering the storm, but we have a belief that this is the time to take bold action,” she says. “If you really want to be successful and move forward boldly, you have to have the courage to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.”

Homepage photo: Furniture from Loll Designs | Courtesy of Loll Designs

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