29 May 2024, 22:02
By Casey Loo May 13, 2022

A snapshot of the Asian furniture industry

Since the start of the pandemic, international travel has been difficult, and few outside of Asia have had the opportunity to visit the region, writes Casey Loo, president of the International Alliance of Furnishing Publications (IAFP), publisher of FurnitureAndFurnishing.com and the founder of the International Furniture Leadership Awards, who offers some snippets of the developments there since …

An integral part of the furniture trade ecosystem, furniture exhibitions are sorely missed in Asia. With the exception of China, it’s been more than two years since any major furniture trade fair was held in the region.

China, the world’s second largest economy, boasting a population of 1.4 billion, is itself a huge market. A zero-tolerance policy towards Covid-19, coupled with swift identification and isolation of cases, has allowed the country to carry on much of its activities during the last two years – including the hosting of trade exhibitions. 

Closed borders and a lack of foreign exhibitors and visitors? No problem. International-oriented fairs simply switched their focus to the enormous domestic market, with considerable success.

Take the previous edition of CIFF Guangzhou. Despite border closures, its 2021 event spanned 750,000 sqm of floor area, with close to 4000 exhibitors. The show welcomed 357,809 professional visitors! Unfortunately, the 2022 event was recently postponed owing to a single case of Omicron discovered at a beauty product fair held at the same venue a week prior to CIFF’s dates. New dates have yet to be announced. 

With the lack of trade shows, our magazine, FurnitureAndFurnishing.com, did its part to help international buyers with their Asian sourcing efforts. During the last 18 months, we provided free online business-matching services to link buyers with new vendors (especially factories in South-east Asia). We also worked on projects commissioned by top event organisers to connect their exhibitors with buyers worldwide. The responses for our premium one-buyer-to-one-seller sessions were overwhelming. This service will carry on, and anyone interested is welcomed to register here

With the current dominance of the Omicron variant, many countries across Asia have finally decided to go into the endemic phase and open up in spite of an elevated number of infections. This has led fair organisers in South-east Asia to confidently set new dates

As it stands, the following events have been announced: Malaysia International Furniture Fair (MIFF), 6-9th July; Indonesia International Furniture Expo (IFEX), 18th-21st August; Vietnam International Furniture Fair (VIFA EXPO), 31st August to 3rd September; and China International Furniture Fair Shanghai (CIFF Shanghai), 5-8th September.

Retail is another matter. According to the great majority of leading retailers we’ve spoken to throughout the region, furniture sales were much depressed during the initial months of Covid-19. However, business spiked as soon as stores reopened, supposedly owing to pent-up demand.  

Ecommerce picked up sharply and further boomed when work-from-home (WFH) was adopted in many Asian countries. Orders for home furniture continued to pour in as consumers were generally spending more time at home on top of WFH. They wanted to spruce up their living spaces – especially those with money saved from forgone overseas holidays – as well as adding desks and office chairs for home office purposes. This trend has continued.

The Asian region has grown in affluence and looks set to continue on this path in the foreseeable future. A strong manufacturer and exporter of furniture products to the world markets, the region’s ever-growing middle class has fueled increasing demand for quality products, including imports. 

Whilst the pandemic has caused havoc and anxiety, the furniture business has turn out alright. We are now returning to normalcy and looking forward to travelling abroad as well as welcoming and meeting customers and friends in person at the few shows to be held across the region very soon. Welcome back!

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