How to order contract furniture

Are you in need of new contract furniture for your public building? In that case, you need to pay particular attention to the topic of lead times, as buying contract furniture is rarely as simple as popping down to the shops. So if you need help working out what times of year you need to start ordering new contract furniture, keep on reading and the Rosehill team will tell you everything you need to know.

Stock contract furniture vs made-to-order contract furniture

Before we go any further, there’s an important distinction that we need to make clear to you. 

When it comes to ordering contract furniture, you tend to have two options:

  • Stock contract furniture.
  • Made-to-order contract furniture. 

What is stock contract furniture? 

Stock contract furniture refers to those items of furniture which are pre-built and ready to purchase. 

Common types of stock contract furniture include pieces such as folding tables, non-upholstered cafe furniture, metalliform tables and the like. 

These are items of furniture for which there is consistent demand, meaning that manufacturers can create them and keep them in stock, knowing they’ll be able to quickly sell them. Also, they are items with limited custom options.

Bear in mind, however, that only the most common colours, styles and variations will be kept in stock. Should you wish to purchase furniture with different finishes, then you’ll be moving into the realm of made-to-order contract furniture.

Stock contract furniture, by its very nature, can normally be delivered very quickly and will usually be with you within 1-2 weeks. In some instances, your furniture can be delivered to you the next working day.

What is made-to-order contract furniture? 

As the name suggests, made-to-order contract furniture refers to items which are not kept in stock.

Instead, a manufacturer will wait until they have received an order before they start manufacturing one of these pieces of furniture. 

It’s not entirely clear cut though. For example, our KI Maestro stacking chairs are available with an upholstered pad. If you choose a black, flannel, nordic or blue grey finish; then these options are in stock and can be delivered to you rapidly. If you decide to opt for a different finish such as ‘mardi gras’, ‘surf’s up’ or ‘zesty lime’, then the chairs will have to be made to order. 

In other words, many pieces of contract furniture are in stock, but once you start customising them and choosing different finishes or colours, they will have to be made to order.

When should you order a stock product vs when order a made to order product

As the definitions above indicate, you’ll need to establish whether a piece of contract furniture is a stock item or made-to-order item, before you place your order. 

The easiest way to do this, is to speak to the supplier directly. 

Here at Rosehill, we can tell you whether an item is ‘stock’ or ‘made to order’, very quickly. We can also provide you with appropriate lead times. 

Contact us on 0161 485 1717, or if you prefer, email

Example lead times

Below are some example lead times to give you an idea of how quickly items of contract furniture can be delivered to you:

  • Stock items such as most office furniture, cafe furniture will be allocated to you and booked for dispatch the following working day from receipt of your order.
  • Folding tables – will take from 1 to 2 weeks to be delivered. If you need them faster, add a note in the checkout and we will expedite them when possible.
  • Upholstered chairs – where you select a ‘standard’ finish, these can be delivered in 1 to 2 working days. If you select a different finish, then the chairs will normally need to be made to order which can take 4 to 8 weeks (depending on the level of demand at the factory).

You may find that certain stock items are occasionally out of stock (as paradoxical as that sounds). For example, if you’re ordering some Hille SE Curve Classroom Chairs during the summer holidays, you may find that the manufacturers are out of stock and it will be a number of weeks before you can receive your chairs. 

Likewise, you may find with certain made-to-order items, that a manufacturer has an immediate slot available in their production schedule, meaning you could receive your items much quicker.

Note – if you find that a particular item is out of stock, we can always find alternatives which are available. Simply call us to see what the options are! 

What does lead time mean? 

We realise we’ve used the phrase ‘lead time’ a fair bit so far in this article, so if you’re new to the world of contract furniture, then you may be wondering what it means.

Lead time simply refers to the length of time between you placing the order and you receiving your items of furniture. 

Why you need to think about lead times for contract furniture

As we alluded in the outset of this article, purchasing contract furniture differs greatly from purchasing furniture for your home. 

With furniture for the home, purchasing new items can be as simple as popping down to your local high street, selecting the piece you want, and having it delivered to your home. In many instances, you can end up receiving your items the next day (or within a few days at most).

Gallery Stacking Chair

Gallery Stacking Chair

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Contract furniture differs in that it is specialist furniture. It’s made to withstand far higher levels of use and wear and tear compared to domestic furniture. 

Contract furniture must also adhere to more rigorous sets of standards. 

What’s more, contract furniture is often highly-customisable. Depending on the setting in which it may be used, it may require specialist upholstery, surfaces, frames or the use of particular materials. 

This often means that contract furniture is ‘made to order’ and as such has much longer lead times than domestic furniture. 

That’s why it’s crucial that you think about lead times when buying contract furniture.

What factors affect the lead times of contract furniture?

Your life would be considerably easier if all items of contract furniture had the same lead time. But, unfortunately that’s not the case. 

In reality, there are myriad factors which can impact the length of time it will take for an item of contract furniture to reach you.

These can include:

  • Frame colours and finishes – many items of contract furniture, be they chairs or tables, are available with different frame options.
  • Location of the manufacturer – if the contract furniture manufacturer is based in Europe or another overseas location, factors such as shipping, customs etc can affect lead times.
  • Seasonality – certain times of year will see higher demand for certain types of furniture. For example, during the summer holidays there is an exceptionally high demand for school furniture. As such, seasonality can impact lead times.
  • Frame types – certain items, such as tables, are available with different types of frame e.g. fully welded or crushed bent.
  • Upholstery options – upholstered seats are typically available with a number of different upholstery options. This is particularly the case for seats which will be used in environments that have specialist upholstery requirements such as healthcare. The availability of the fabric you choose can affect the lead time too, if the fabric manufacturer is out of stock for example.
  • Table tops – when it comes to tables, many are available with different table top surfaces and table top colours.
  • Additional customisations – many items such as chairs can be further customised from standard. This can include the addition of arms, arm pads, book boxes (for churches), and more.

Those are some of the main factors that can affect the lead times of contract furniture. 

It’s also worth noting that post-COVID 19, there are also significant supply chain disruptions that can also affect lead times.

Metalliform Teacher Desks

Metalliform Teacher Desks

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How to find the lead times of contract furniture

Here at Rosehill we make it really easy to find the standard lead time of an item. Start by clicking on the item of furniture that you are interested in:

How to order contract furniture

Once you are on the product page, click on the section labelled ‘Technical Specification’ as indicated below:

How to order contract furniture

Finally, scroll down the page until you find the standard lead time information within the Technical Specification information box (circled in red below):

What's the best way to order contract furniture

As you can see, we give our lead times within ‘ranges’. This is because many factors involved in lead times are out of our control – and so we are only able to provide estimations on when you will receive your furniture.

And remember, lead times can vary further depending on how you configure your particular item of furniture.

Note – some specialist items are made to order. In this instance we won’t display the lead time on the product description. Instead, give us a call to discuss your requirements and we can provide you with an estimated lead time then.

Don’t let a lead time put you off!

Our lead times are only a guide. If you require a particular piece of furniture, it’s always worth contacting us first.

We have very strong links to all of the major contract furniture manufacturers – so we can check availability with them if you are in pressing need of an item of furniture. 

You can call us directly on 0161 485 1717. Or, if you prefer, you can email us at: (Please tell us how you found our website too!)

How to order contract furniture at the right time

We recommend that you start planning your contract furniture purchases at the start of your financial or budget year. 

Once you know what budget you are working to, you’ll be able to plan your purchases properly.

The process normally goes something like this:

  • Select the items you wish to purchase at the start of the year. Alternatively think about when your financial year ends and work from there.
  • Check their standard lead time.
  • If you want to configure your furniture with different options than standard, contact us for a customised lead time estimation.
  • Once you have the lead times, place the dates you need to order, as reminders in your calendar. For example, if you need furniture for the start of the school year in September, and the items you want have a lead time of 8 weeks, you should set a reminder at the start of July to place an order (although it’s always recommended to order even earlier if you can).
  • Place your orders as they crop up in your calendar.

If furniture is part of a new build or renovation, work backwards from the expected completion date. You don’t want the building to be ready, but it’s empty as you didn’t order the furniture in time!

How will you know when your contract furniture is ready?

Once you’ve placed an order with Rosehill our customer services team will keep you updated on the progress of your furniture. You can reach our customer services team on (please include your order reference number in your email).

A large number of our products are designed and manufactured exclusively for Rosehill, so we have direct lines of real-time communication with our suppliers. This means we can provide you with updates on the progress of your order very quickly.

Rosehill: the home of contract furniture

We hope you’ve found our guide to contract furniture lead times helpful. 

As we say above, figuring out the exact lead times of contract furniture is definitely more of an art than a science – so if you’re in any doubt about when you could receive a piece of furniture, just contact us and we’ll be happy to help!

Talk to Rosehill about our contract furniture today!

For more contract furniture information, buying guides and advice, explore the Rosehill blog

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