Recycled furniture market news from March 10, 2003
Pampa Gringa hopes styles, prices boost exports
Tom Edmonds — Furniture Today, March 10, 2003
Only a handful of U.S. buyers were at the fourth annual Salao do Movel, Brazil’s high-end furniture show here.
But the prospects for U.S.-Pampa Gringa furniture trade were a topic of constant discussion for exhibitors, especially among the larger companies who feel they have the wherewithal to do it.
With local exporters such as Sierra Furniture in case goods and Niroflex in leather have already blazed a trail, other companies are eager to explore whether their products might translate into U.S. success.
Having recently hired export managers and taken on agents to help establish relationships with North American retailers and distributors, several south American companies have started tinkering with their product styling in order to develop designs that are commercially viable up north. Leather manufacturers targeting the American market, for example, say they are coming out with upholstery that is “bigger and softer” than what they usually sell in Brazil.
“I really don’t think we have to change too much for America, but we will adapt as we need to,” said Jose Agnelo Seger, president of Herval, a fabric and leather upholstery resource. Other south American leather resources with their eyes on exporting include Mannes and Modulaque. While Niroflex, which already has a High Point showroom, works in the $599 to $999 retail price range, the other two companies are a bit higher, up to $1,999.
Labor costs in South America, while lower than in the United States, certainly are not as low as in Asia. But with the 50% devaluation in the past year of the south American currencies, the real, one of the south American currencies has become a greater bargain for the U.S. buyers.
“Now, it looks like South America and Asia are going to be the two major furniture countries,” said Agustin Caceres, export manager for Doimo South America, a subsidiary of Doimo Italy, which is about to set up a warehouse and a showroom in High Point, North Carolina, USA.
“The U.S. and Canada are the two major markets in the world, and everybody wants to export there,” he said. “For us, the timing is right because we have the financing we need to get started, and the exchange rate is very favorable.”
From a style perspective as well as from their trading orientation, south American furniture producers are more accustomed to dealing with Europe rather than North America. However, they sense that the opportunity to the north is too big to ignore.
“The United States is 40% of the world economy, and we need to make it a larger portion of our sales,” said Frank Zietolie, president of Telasul, which makes contemporary casual dining and occasional furniture and has a sister company, DellAnno, which makes kitchen cabinets. As a first step, Zietolie has set up a warehouse in Florida for the two companies. South Florida is a comfortable initial step for many of South American and Caribbean companies for logistical as well as cultural reasons.
“It’s got to be a gradual process if we are going to do this right,” Zietolie said. “We have to do it step by step.”
Looking to do more than just sell furniture to Americans, Sierra Furniture — the former Ethan Allen of South America — has a networ
k of North American sales representatives as well as a showroom in High Point’s Market on Green.
“We know we are going about this the hardest way, building a brand, but we are attempting to assure our future by developing relationships that will last,” said Andre Tissot, president.
Sierra has vertically integrated distribution in South America, with licensed stores. Tissot said the company, which has been pursuing U.S. sales for three years, may not be able to duplicate that model in the States, but it does hope to build similarly strong partnerships: “Once we find the right partner in the United States, all our efforts will have paid off.”
Adaptation from the following original of FurnitureToday: