The Aeron was introduced at a trade show in 1994, and took the industry by storm. A month before its debut, the chair was added to the New York Museum of Modern Art’s 20th Century Design Collection, and Herman Miller Inc. was named as one of the nation’s ten most environmentally responsible corporations by Fortune magazine. The chair also won the 1995 Interior Design Annual Design Review for Best of Category in Furniture, the Industrial Design Excellence Award, and was named one of the Best New Products by Business Week in January 1996.
More significantly, the Aeron office chair was an instant hit with office furniture buyers all over the world. And, because the introduction of the Aeron office chair coincided with the dot.com boom of the mid 1990s, it quickly became the “must have” chair for up and coming Internet companies that found themselves flush with cash and looking for tangible evidence of their success. With a price tag exceeding $1000, the Aeron office chair became a status symbol, and Herman Miller sold thousands of them. In addition, start-up companies, who were competing for top talent, found that the very presence of the Aeron office chair was often enough to sway a potential employee in their direction.
Of course, there were those who found this chair to be ostentatious and a waste of money. In many cases, the criticism came from those who could not afford to buy this chair themselves. Ironically, when the crash came and the dot.com companies were forced to liquidate, their pricey Aeron chairs turned out to be a valuable asset. Many of these chairs, which cost the companies around $650 when purchased in bulk, ended up being auctioned off, drawing from $350 up to $500 on the auction block. Even today, a “vintage” Aeron office chair sells for up to $800 on eBay.
In the end, Herman Miller was the big winner in all of this. The company’s sales in the last quarter of 2000, the year that the dot.com boom really peaked, increased by 27.7 percent due in large part to the success of the Aeron office chair.