Haworth Portugal: 100 years of history

The Haworth Portugal’s history began in 1922. It started as a family business and today it belongs to Haworth INC (USA), one of the largest groups in the office furniture business.

Haworth Portugal Heritage

We need to go back 100 years to recall where it all began, right in Lisbon, overviewing the Tejo River.  The company was born under the name Guilherme Marques, at Rocha Conde de Óbidos.

The place was known for a famous rock (“rocha”, in portuguese) from which came its own name.

Rocha Conde de Óbidos would later disappear within the scope of the city's evolution, followed by the reconversion of the landscape and the road, as well as pedestrian networks.

Portugal in 1922

In 1922, Portugal had just abandoned the Monarchy, a political regime that lasted between 1143 and 1910.

The First Portuguese Republic followed. It was a political and governmental unstable period, followed by a hard economic situation. Those uncertain times were caused by the clashes between the Government and the Catholic Church.

Despite its failure, the First Republic allowed Portugal to come through the 20th century with an unsurpassed legacy: a renewed national civil law, the founding for an educational revolution, the principle of the separation between the State and the Church, the overseas empire up to 1975 and a strong unique culture (national flag, anthem, and the name of the streets), which still define the Portuguese identity.

The country was impacted by the 1920-1922 international crisis, suffering due to a great inflation and speculation, which resulted in a significant increase of the interest and discount rates. Those unstable times came after the end of the First World War. The Portuguese economy had had a great growth, especially thanks to the wine, cork, and sardine exportations. At the same time, the country saw an increase on spending with luxury and importations.

Also in 1922, a historical year, Sacadura Cabral and Gago Coutinho achieved the first aerial crossing of the South Atlantic. The trip from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro was especially important in the navigation devices testing which left a mark in the aviation history.

In the cultural chapter, there were also two extremely important events in that year: the Maria Vitória and Parque Mayer theaters were inaugurated.

Ernesto Mendonça's role

This is a name we can’t forget in Haworth Portugal’s history. Ernesto Mendonça's vision was decisive for the company's evolution towards furniture design.

Coming from a wealthy family with a lot of academic studies, Ernesto Mendonça was fascinated by travelling. It was in one of those trips to England that he found inspiration for creating furniture. A business that he decided to start in Portugal, in partnership with Guilherme Marques.

It was with this direction that the company led the expansion over time. A business that continued within his family.

Ernesto Mendonça had 3 children, Pedro Mendonça, Margarida Roquete (married to José Roquete) and Isabel Correa Mendes (married to Carlos Correa Mendes).

Pedro Mendonça and Carlos Correa Mendes, first as directors, and José Roquete, as non-executive director, ended up taking over the management of the company. They followed the path through EMA – Empresa de Metalurgia Artística Lda and the evolution to an anonymous society company, under the name of SELDEX.

There were only further changes with the merger of Seldex with Cortal. Pedro Mendonça and Paulo Fernandes became the administrators. They continued until the acquisition of the Cortal-Seldex group by Haworth Inc.

Focus on Office Furniture

In the 1950s, the need for expansion led to Conde Barão moving to the industrial area of Venda Nova, in Amadora.

Later, in 1961, another historical move came. The commercial services were inaugurated, having their own building, on Avenida da Liberdade. Three years later, SELDEX – Office Equipment Society was born. The company already has 300 employees at the time.

It was also in this year, in 1964, that the current manufacturing and administrative facilities in Queluz de Baixo were opened. It began with chairs, desks, cabinets and files and cardboard (office consumables) production.

Commercial delegations were also opened in Porto, Braga, Leiria, Setubal and Faro in the following years. This base allowed the vast network of distributors that currently exists throughout the country.

In 1984, Euroseel was inaugurated. The creation of the chair factory marks the production of several lines of chairs of the prestigious German brand ‘COMFORTO’, with a German patent. The factory was located in Arruda dos Vinhos.

In 1986, Euroseel Iberia SA. was born in Madrid as part of a strategy to increase sales in the European market and it marked the commercialization of the group's products in Spain.

These commercial movements evidenced Seldex as a recognized brand in the national and international market. Leader in Portugal, the company activity has always been guided by quality, innovation, and design standards.

Additionally, Investment in training people and modernizing equipment have always characterize Seldex's DNA.

Merger with Cortal

Portugal's accession to the EEC (European Union) marks this era. It was in this singular context of adapting to the expansion of the economic space inherent challenges, that Seldex associated itself with Cortal, SA, in 1989. This is how the CORTAL-SELDEX group was formed.

Cortal started its activity in 1966. It was a modular furniture pioneer company in Portugal, introducing the first integrated system for offices.

With sustained growth, Cortal's operation was based on the total satisfaction of its customers and on the development of new products. An avant-garde vision supported by modern, flexible, and customized equipment. The company focused on practical and functional solutions in the optimization of workspaces.

Desks and blocks represent the largest range of Cortal lines of furniture.

In 1989 another important operation takes place. The share capital of Isomobel, SA majority was acquired. The Spanish commercial organization was present in five of the main regions of the neighboring country's market: Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Bilbao, and Valencia.

This move allowed a sustained development of the group's sales in Spain. The door to an expansion in the European market was now opened.

New technologies in the modern office, like the computer, inspired the office furniture line ‘7000 Terminal’. It was created under license from the renowned Swiss brand LISTA.

In 1991, the Office System line was launched, entirely designed by the Studies and Projects Office.

The association of the CORTAL-SELDEX group with the Haworth group, one of the largest manufacturers of Office Furniture in the United States and the entire world, took place in 1993.

The company is part of Haworth Europe, which already has factories in Italy (Castelli and COM), France (Ordo and Mobilier), Germany and Switzerland (Comforto) and a delegation in England.

The Company then begins the production of the most advanced '3D' Furniture Line already under its new designation.

Haworth produced the highest quality furniture with its high technology and specialized personnel, attested by ISO-9001 and Tüv-GS Certifications.

Combined metal and wood, or only wood, were the basis of their chairs’ manufacturing. The final product also exceeds the requirements of international standards regarding quality and ergonomics. 

Haworth Portugal

Haworth Portugal's manufacturing and administrative facilities currently occupy an area of more than 40,000 m2. The company has two manufacturing units, one in Queluz and the other in Águeda. Haworth Portugal also has 3 active showrooms: in Queluz, Águeda and Porto.

From a family business to the integration into one of the largest office furniture manufacturers and distributors, Haworth was formed in a vision of the future.

Haworth’s standards have always been adapting to the emerging market needs and constantly implement new methodologies. It made it possible to find integrated solutions focused on the cost/quality binomial along the way.

The company was a pioneer, having been the first in the sector to achieve important goals, such as:

• Obtain certification from the Portuguese Quality Institute according to the NP EN ISO 9001 standard (the most demanding at the time).
• JIT (just in time) system implemented, very advanced for the time in this sector.
• Alphanumeric and robotic control machines introduced into production lines.
• Select suppliers that guarantee the quality of the raw materials and products used in the production lines.
• Design in CAD solutions suited to the technological evolution of offices, according to the rules of ergonomics and according to a design that would provide the user with a pleasant well-being in the performance of their functions, at highly competitive prices.

Haworth's products reflect the vast experience acquired through other companies around the world. This allows exporting lines of furniture with the characteristics and quality required by the most demanding international markets. In the national market, it offers products of excellent quality and design.

The motto “Total Quality”, a more personalized contact and a more effective after-sales behavior guided the focus towards increasing customer experience and satisfaction until the present days.

And the history will continue to be written by all of us for the future!