The American market poses vast opportunities for Malaysian furniture manufacturers to embark. Acknowledged as the largest furniture importer in the world in 2003, the American market is Malaysia’s top furniture export destination for the past many years. Malaysian manufacturers should take advantage of the opportunities offered by this prospective market to augment and maximise their potential. One of the methods to achieve this aim will be through diversifying into the middle to higher end American market. To ensure success in strengthening its foothold in the American furniture market, accurate and updated information on the market play a vital role to ascertain the most effective and productive results are achieved and mistakes, should there be any, will be at a minimal cost.

With regard to this, the Malaysian Furniture Promotion Council (MFPC) is organising its 3rd National Furniture Seminar on 16 May 2005 (Monday) at the Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur. Aptly titled “The New Malaysian Approach for the American Market? the MFPC believes that this half-day seminar will benefit Malaysian industry players who wish to strengthen their foothold in the American market or diversify to the middle to higher end market segments.

The invited speaker for this seminar is Mr Joseph F. Carroll from the USA. Mr Carroll has a long list of credit to his almost three decade career in the furniture industry. He is currently publisher of Furniture/Today, the leading weekly trade publication of the American furniture industry that has over 22,000 subscribers in the US, Canada and worldwide. In addition, Mr Carroll is author of four home furnishings tabletop books and a regular guest on the nationally acclaimed home TV show, Haven, which is sponsored by the Home Furnishings Council of the USA. He also shares his thoughts and experience regularly through speaking at industry conferences, furniture markets and sales meeting and, appears in both live and recorded broadcasts during the High Point International Home Furniture Market.

Adding on to Mr Carroll’s impressive career profile is a list of awards and titles such as “Pillar of the Industry?by the International Home Furnishing Representatives Association in 1997, past president of the American Furniture Hall of Fame and Chairman of the High Point University Home Furnishings Advisory Board to name a few. He is currently President of the Piedmont Triad Council for International Visitors and President of Greensboro Sister Cities. In this seminar, Mr Carroll will be sharing his experience together with useful information and advice on the American furniture industry for Malaysian manufacturers to undertake.    

Through this seminar, Malaysian manufacturers will be updated with latest news and details concerning the American market including furniture trends, changes and furniture consumer lifestyle, taste and needs. With a better understanding of the American market, this poses a lead to manufacturers in planning and devising their marketing strategies, including the need to alter existing strategies to ensure continuous growth in the American market. Manufacturers who are already exporting to the US or wish to explore a new potential market or market segments should utilise this informative opportunity to diversify into the middle to higher end market and find their market niche. For manufacturers who are interested to undertake the American market into its company’s profile, information obtained from this seminar will provide a large step ahead in its plan for international presence in the American furniture industry.

Mr Wang, Chief Operating Officer of the MFPC comments, “The US has been Malaysia’s key exporting destination in furniture, importing more than RM 1.9 billion worth of furniture in year 2004, about 30 % of Malaysia’s total furniture exports. However, most of the products cater to the low end market segment, where manufacturers are now facing stiff competition from other low cost producers such as China and Vietnam, who enjoys higher labour supplies and lower labour costs.  It is important for Malaysian manufacturers to realise that the only way to overcome this challenge will be to find its market niche through diversifying into the other market segments, particularly the middle to higher segment of this lucrative market.?

Malaysian furniture exports in the year 2004 recorded an astounding value worth RM 6.4 billion. Having strongly established Malaysia as a reputable furniture exporter in the world by ranking 10th largest in the world, 2nd in Asia and 1st in ASEAN in year 2004, the time calls for the industry to take on a new direction and deviate from the low end markets. The industry has become more competitive with entries from emerging countries, thus, engaging in the price war and lowering prices to maintain market shares in the industry will only lead to hazardous results in the long run. To excel in the international furniture arena, Malaysian manufacturers should diverge from the price war and focus on the enhancement of their global position through new design and market strategies instead.    

“The MFPC focuses on a two prong approach in its strategies towards excellence, namely Design Enhancement and Market Enhancement. The Design Enhancement activities are based on its strategies which seek to propagate awareness towards the creation of international furniture designs by Malaysian designers and manufacturers. It seeks to inculcate the importance of international property rights (IPR) and branding to Malaysian manufacturers, encouraging and facilitating the creation of Original Design Manufacturing (ODM) and Own Brand Names (OBN) in the Malaysian furniture industry. The Market Enhancement Department, on the other hand, ascertains where Malaysia stands in existing markets and opportunities to strengthen its position in these markets via thorough research. It also conducts exploratory studies to identify new and niche markets and potential market segments, such as the American market, to enhance global coverage of Malaysian furniture,?/STRONG> Mr Wang comments.     

The MFPC, playing the role as the specialised promotion council established by the Government to elevate Malaysian furniture industry’s position in international markets, has in its blueprint of objectives, a line up of market enhancement programmes and activities to further strengthen the international presence of Malaysian furniture in the global arena. In addition to international trade fairs and exhibitions, trade missions and working visits, furniture excellence programmes (FURNEXPRO) and road shows, inviting world-renowned individuals from the furniture industry as speakers for its seminars will be part of the list of standard activities in the MFPC’s event calendar to update industry players with latest information and news about the industry and to facilitate in aligning their marketing strategies.

By working closely with Malaysian furniture manufacturers, the MFPC aspires to establish Malaysia as a recognised source of world-class furniture. Playing the role of the mediator between the industry with its related sectors, the Government and international markets, the MFPC shares the optimism of achieving future excellence in the furniture arena. It also believes that its 3rd National Furniture Seminar will be beneficial to all those who have participated and hopes that the information obtained will be put to good and effective use.