27 May 2024, 02:00
By Furniture News Mar 07, 2014

'Muar' from MIFF

It's been a curious day at MIFF, Malaysia's principal furniture exhibition. Curious because, after a few years of regular visits, I'm just starting to see the show's true colours.

I was unsure what MIFF's new owner, global events giant UBM, would make of the fair, and have been pleased to see it grow in scope and popularity in the last two years. The most notable exhibitor growth has come from the involvement of an increasing number of members of the Muar Furniture Group (MFA), a key Malaysian furniture association which last year defected en masse from MIFF's competitor, EFE.

These Muar manufacturers, together with a number of new exhibitors, have brought a great deal more quality and variety to MIFF's product offer, from sumptuous upholstery to fine dining, adding a wealth of new opportunities beyond the already-strong cabinet, office and metal bed products on display throughout the show.

Just what did I mean by my initial statement? Only that this year I've started to see the true potential of the show's exhibitors which, in addition to the myriad styles displayed on their stands, can often tailor their output to meet British tastes. Looking in every corner of the show can yield great rewards for buyers seeking something new or different - that is, if another British buyer hasn't beaten you to the punch.

According to UBM event spokesperson Karen Goi, there's a higher quotient of visitors from Britain than anywhere else in Europe - quite a feat given declining attendance from Brits at many shows closer to home.

MIFF, currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, is well established as the 'starting block' for the annual March Far East sourcing trail, and few criticise the professionalism and hospitality the show (and the city of Kuala Lumpur) offers. Many buyers begin their journey with Malaysia, hoping to discover material innovations, competitive prices and new styles, confident in the knowledge that the country's manufacturers can deliver goods of the standard they specify.

MIFF has fought hard to retain its place as one of the world's top 10 furniture fairs, by presenting an increasingly diverse yet compelling offer. Following a period in which both the products and exhibitor base seemed to change very little year after year, the event has become more proactive, making significant additions such as the MFA members to ensure it remains relevant to international buyers, and an essential fixture on their increasingly busy calendars.

It seems that, together with the show's established organiser team, UBM has done sterling work thus far to transform the event, in turn attracting more visitors. Pre-registrations were up an astonishing 40% this year, and, according to Karen, all of the hotels nearby were completely sold out. When I speak to her on the fourth day of the show, Karen cites an early international visitor count of more than 5,000 from 128 countries - quite a coup for a show that is very much focused on immediate transactions.

There have been problems in the course of its expansion, of course, such as the failure to launch of the new SEAFIE import/export show, which looks set to be subsumed into MIFF. The show's seminar content rarely has enough substance or promotional to prove a real draw, and the somewhat labyrinthine architecture of MIFF's main venue can make navigation a headache.

Despite these flaws, MIFF manages to score on several of the most important levels, and, fresh from a glitzy buyers night celebration of the event's two decades of business, its organisers are already looking to the show's future, which will see fresh exhibitors, greater international co-operation and synergies, and the completion of a brand new event centre in 2016.

Muar's involvement in MIFF is just one sign that the show is gaining even more ground in Malaysia. Boosting visitors' potential for finding good product is key, and it feels like MIFF is on track to make even greater global impact in the coming years.

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