- "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer compares Herman Miller and Steelcase, two furniture giants, to see which one is a more attractive pick.
- The two businesses may be similar on paper, but in the office, they manifest themselves in different ways, Cramer says.
- Cramer finds that one of the two companies is doing much more than the other to better its business.
NBC's "The Office" may have been a big hit, but Jim Cramer sees offices today undergoing a style reformation, ditching their shabby cubicles for new-age moving walls and standing desks.
Both companies deal in high-end office furniture. Herman Miller is known for its posh, ergonomic office chairs created by high-profile designers; Steelcase is known as the world's top creator of office environments, using deep analytics of work patterns to inform its upscale products.
Herman Miller and Steelcase are also both benefiting from secular trends, mainly a pickup in the U.S. economy and the rise of technology like the internet, social media and the cloud.
"If offices want to attract talent, especially from the younger generation, they need furniture that facilitates a more collaborative work environment, which is good news for Herman Miller and Steelcase," Cramer said.
But from a financial standpoint, the two are quite different. Steelcase's sales were down almost 1 percent last year, following a flat 2015 and a small, 2.4 percent uptick in growth in 2014.
Herman Miller's revenue growth has been fairly strong, up 5.7 percent last year, down from 13.8 percent in 2015 but more or less on par with its 6 percent growth in 2014.
However, 2017 could be a year of reversal, with Steelcase expecting 2 percent growth and Herman Miller forecasting just 1 percent.
As for earnings, both companies were hit hard last year after seeing good earnings growth from 2013 to 2015. Steelcase's earnings growth was flat compared to its 16.9 percent boost in 2015, and Herman Miller's earnings declined 4 percent compared to 24 percent growth the year prior.
That said, Herman Miller is expected to see a 5 percent earnings bump in 2017 whereas consensus suggests Steelcase will see a 9 percent earnings decline.
"Ouch," Cramer said. "That's certainly a point to Herman Miller."
Both companies recently reported their quarterly earnings as well, with Steelcase missing estimates on the top and bottom line and giving cautious guidance for the next quarter based on declines in large orders and weakness in the Americas.
Cramer said part of Steelcase's problem this quarter was the company's big investments in its own business as it builds out its manufacturing capacity and creates new products.
Once again, Herman Miller told a better story, delivering a 9 cent earnings beat, helped by its recent purchase of furniture store chain Design Within Reach, and strong full-year guidance.
Cramer said Herman Miller's focus on the consumer seems to be paying off as well, with consumer organic growth rising 8 percent last quarter.
"For me, the takeaway seems clear: either it's only raining on Steelcase's side of the street, or Herman Miller's eating their lunch," the "Mad Money" host said. "In the office furniture showdown, Herman Miller is beating Steelcase hands down, and with the stocks trading at very similar valuations, Herman Miller looks way too cheap to me and should be bought. Steelcase? It's got a lot to prove, and so far, it's had an awful hard time proving it."
Disclosure: The U.S. version of "The Office" is distributed by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC and CNBC.