The International Furniture Fair Singapore 2012/29th ASEAN Furniture Show (IFFS/AFS 2012) was held on Mar. 9-12 at Singapore Expo, along with Deco Asia 2012 and Hospitality Show 2012. The concurrent showing of the three reinforced their status as Asia's premier design-led furniture sourcing platform for the industry. Of particular significance were two brand-new programs—the Hospitality/Design/Furniture Converge Asia Conference and ‘SingaPlural,' the first Singapore Furniture Design Week—that brought the latest in furniture and design to trade professionals and consumers alike.
SingaPlural showcased the best design talent from the multi-faceted design arena including architecture, furniture, interiors, graphics, and fashion in Singapore.
The three shows together attracted a total of 512 exhibitors, from 26 countries, who occupied 67,000 square meters of space in seven halls, along with 23,552 trade visitors from over 100 countries. A large group of hosted buying delegations, together with higher pre-registration figures, translated into an increase of almost 13% in actual visitor numbers.
The organizer claimed that spot orders to the tune of US$303 million were transacted at the fair, up from US$289 million last year, and that follow-on sales are expected to top US$3.6 billion.
Tony Pang, chairman of the IFFS Show Advisory Panel, remarked at the opening ceremony: “For many years now, IFFS/AFS has carved for itself a niche as a global furniture hub with an edge and continues to do so today, with the launch of the two new and exciting segments. The show boasts a steady stream of visitors from more than 100 countries, and has developed into a unique platform within the Asian show circuit.”
Trends and Preferences
Comments made by exhibitors paint a picture of today's furniture trend and customer preferences, as well as the reasons why they attended IFFS/AFS. Il Giardino di Legno is an Italian firm producing European-style furniture for markets in both Europe and Asia, and its marketing manager, Erica Girotto, was there. “Singapore is an international city-state and the trade shows held in the country can always attract visitors from all over the world,” she said. “This year is the third time of the company's attendance at IFFS/AFS, and we have as usual received satisfactory on-site orders.”
Unique natural-looking wooden furniture items are favorites of Phillips Collection’s design-oriented customers.
Il Giardino di Legno sells 40% of its products domestically and exports the rest, with Singapore and Hong Kong being its major outlets in Asia. “We attend IFFS/AFS to promote our products not only in Singapore,” Girotto added, “but also in other countries in Asia. Recently we have explored the market in China through Hong Kong.”
Philips Collection, founded by a couple about 30 years ago, is a design-oriented American furniture firm that has displayed a striking skill for discovery, from one-of-a-kind treasures to new trends. The company searches the world for exciting products for its design-oriented customers.
“IFFS/AFS is the first furniture show we've participated in in Asia,” said Mark Phillips, president of the company. “We used to exhibit our products in Europe and the United States, and this year we started to bring them to Asia. IFFS/AFS is a suitable venue for us to display the products.
“Most of our products are esthetically unique and those we display here are all artistic pieces. My wife, Julie Phillips, is a sculptor and my son an artist, and they are in charge of the designs of the products. Besides, Jeremy Penn is our contract designer; he received dual art degrees from the University of Maryland and Pratt Institute, and is known for working with unique materials while constructing color combinations intended to elicit deep emotions.”
Indian-style classic cabinets are popular items in Handicraft’s product pool.
Handicrafts Co., an Indian wooden furniture manufacturer, was at the show for the first time. “IFFS/AFS is a leading furniture show in Asia and Singapore is a hustle-bustle international harbor, so we meet many international buyers at the show,” noted Rajiv Johari, a senior Handicrafts official.
“We have been involved in the furniture industry for 12 years, turning out wooden furniture with material mostly sourced from a kind of tree called ‘acaziz' in India,” Johari explained. “We export 80% of our products and provide the remaining 20% to the domestic market. The United States used to be our main export outlet, but in recent years Europe has become our No. 1 overseas market as the business climate in the U.S. has turned sluggish. Today, Asia is becoming economically stronger and so is the market potential there. We plan to tap the huge market in China in the coming years.”
Iron Wood International Co., a Taiwanese furniture producer, has been at IFFS/AFS more than 10 times and has seen the size of the show gradually shrink. “Influenced by the rapid growth of furniture shows in China and Southeast Asian nations, including neighboring Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, IFFS/AFS has shrunk little by a little in recent years,” explained Kate Lin, an Iron Wood sales specialist. “To expand the scale of the exhibition, it has combined with Deco Asia and the Hospitality Show.”
Interwood offers wooden furniture for different kinds of rooms.
Established in central Taiwan in 1992, Iron Wood focuses on the production of furniture made of combined materials including iron, glass, and wood. In 2000 the company expanded into Vietnam by setting up a manufacturing plant there. Today its Taiwan plant has a workforce of about 30 persons who make mainly high-end metal furniture, while the plant in Vietnam has 150 workers turning out mostly wooden furniture.
“Our products are 100% exported, to Western Europe (65%), the U.S. (20%), and other regions (15%),” Lin disclosed. “To tap the market in China, we started to attend the China Furniture Show in Shanghai in 2007 and have since also joined other furniture shows there. In 2011 we set up our first sales outlet in Beijing to market furniture items under our own brand.”
Fourteen of the foreign exhibitors at IFFS/AFS came from Vietnam; one of them was Interwood, attending the show for the fourth time. “Vietnam is heavily forested,” noted Le Neguyen Tra Giang, the company's customer services officer, “so our furniture products are mostly made of wood.
“Singapore is an English-speaking nation and quite international, so it can attract many international buyers from all over the world to visit its international shows. We export 100% of our products globally, and IFFS/AFS is a good place for furniture manufacturers to contact international buyers.”
As usual, Lifestyle Enterprise Inc., a U.S.-based Taiwanese furniture dealer and supplier, erected a Forbidden City-style booth at this year's IFFS/AFS. Chairman William Hsieh established the company in High Point, North Carolina in 1997 and has since become a major player in the furniture world.
Expanding with Chinese Cultural Elements
Drawing on deep Chinese cultural emotions, Hsieh said that he believes Chinese cultural elements can be the most powerful weapon for him to use in expanding the company's footprint in Western countries occupying a major position in the global furniture market.
Lifestyle’s Forbidden City-style booth is an established landmark at IFFS/AFS.
As a leading global furniture supplier, Lifestyle has established sales outlets around the world for products that are sourced evenly from Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers. “Most of our products are made by working with producers in China because of that country's strong manufacturing strength and competitive costs,” Hsieh noted. Last year the company bought about US$350 million worth of furniture items from China.
“Today,” Hsieh continued, “furniture made in China accounts for more than 60% of the world's total supply. But there is no international brand that has been created by Chinese entrepreneurs.” Lifestyle products, by contrast, have been sold to 80 countries around the world under Lifestyle's own “Shanghai” and “Forbidden City” brands.
This two-piece white sofa couch set by Lifestyle features simplicity and style.
“We have never stopped looking for market niches,” Hsieh commented, “and we spend about US$10 million a year to promote our products by attending shows and running advertisements.”
d-Bodhi booth attracted visitors with an intriguing design.
d-Bodhi Pte Ltd. is a Singapore furniture maker with production facilities in Indonesia. “IFFS/AFS is our primary venue for the launching of new collections each year,” said Raymond Davids, the company's chief executive officer. “This marks the fifth show for us since 2008.
“To catch up with the eco-friendly world trend,” Davids noted, “we use wood as the major material for our products, since wood is natural material and can be biodegradable and renewable. Our plant in Indonesia has a workforce of some 750 persons who turn out teakwood furniture which is marketed to over 30 countries and regions around the world, mainly Europe, Australia, and Japan. Last year we started to tap the market in the U.S. and will continue to explore other markets as well.”
To promote design excellence in today's eco-conscious society, this year's IFFS spotlighted a Green Pavilion with a debut collection of 10 local companies having diverse approaches to sustainable practices. More than ever before, the focus was on design. Some of the most intriguing exhibits were found in D'Space, a unique segment marked by a tall, black scaffolding structure dedicated to design.
“IFFS/AFS has had a track record of robust attendance from a large number of countries,” remarked James Goh, president of the Singapore Furniture Industries Council and director of IFFS Pte Ltd. “Quality exhibits and a good visitor program have helped the event gain its international following and strong repute.”
(by Judy Li)