Country report  



David Vs Goliath, The Singapore Story

With a population of merely 5.39million on an island of 716 square kilometres, Singapore is a small country by any measure. However, despite the lack of natural resources, land and labour, the country has made marked achievements in the competitive world of furniture business. Its local industry continues to actively pursue a growth strategy against all odds in the global furniture market.


Singapore’s market share within the furniture market reached S$5.74 billion in 2012 and accounts for 1.05% of the global market share

According to data provided by Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC), a leading association of predominantly furniture manufacturers and exporters in the country, Singapore has a total of 1,921 companies engaged in the furniture business with 19,700 personnel within the workforce. The country trades with over 80 countries worldwide.

Amazingly, Singapore’s market share within the furniture market reached S$5.74 billion in 2012 and accounts for 1.05% of the global market share.

The industry credits its noteworthy achievement and strength to the resilience of its local companies as well as governmental support. Particularly helpful has been a Local Enterprise and Association Development (LEAD) Programme started in 2006.

Through the LEAD Programme and a Furniture Industry Productivity Plan, SFIC aims to further increase the nominal value-add (VA) per worker by 20% sector-wide whilst raising the global market share of Singapore’s furniture industry to 1.5% by 2015. This programme is supported by International Enterprise Singapore and Spring Singapore, two leading government agencies that promotes Singapore business competitiveness.

All in all, the SFIC has spearheaded a 98% growth of the market share in the industry since 2006.

Trends, Targets and Key Industry Initiatives
In the past, Singapore’s furniture industry consisted primarily of small family-run businesses. It was considered a cottage industry then, as furniture owners catered mainly to domestic demand.

Building on the successes of the first generation, the second generation leaders were more ambitious and entrepreneurial. They began to look at meeting overseas demand, thereby prompting regionalisation and setting the stage for Singapore’s furniture industry to enter the global market.

Combining the second generation’s entrepreneurial spirit with modern management and financial expertise, the third generation owners have today created major furniture companies with international operations. The present generation is also more media-savvy and receptive to “reinventing” the family business, keeping pace with changing times and evolving business conditions.

This continuous improvement across the generations is critical to propel the furniture industry forward. The result is reflected in terms of design trends, the employment of modern manufacturing techniques and sound fiscal management.

Over the years, Singapore’s furniture industry has evolved and expanded to include streamlined processes such as overseas manufacturing plants and multiple regional offices located strategically in new markets.

Design has also become the key focus of furniture and home furnishings businesses in Singapore and fast becoming an integral aspect for a successful brand, a key differentiator for sharpening the competitive edge of enterprises.

Through SFIC’s various industry development programmes, which are strongly supported by the various industry and government agencies such as DesignSingapore Council, International Enterprise Singapore and SPRING Singapore, SFIC has set the tone for industry players to realign their focus from a manufacturing mind set, to one that is design-led.

Besides honing design capabilities of enterprises, SFIC has also focused its efforts on nurturing budding design talents. An example of SFIC’s progress in encouraging creativity can be seen through the two successive editions of SingaPlural-Celebrating Design showcased the best design elements from a multi-faceted creative spectrum – Architecture, Urban Planning, Landscape Architecture, Interior, Furniture, Graphic and Fashion Design.

is SFIC’s inaugural collaboration with its 8 other network partners from DesignS. This is a first-ofits kind official collaboration in Singapore design’s history.

The responses to SFIC’s design-related programmes and activities have been excellent, with many promising young designers, design collectives and design-led companies fast gaining attention and making a name for themselves both locally and overseas.

SingaPlural 2014 will be an anchor event of the Singapore Design Week by the DesignSingapore Council happening from 12 -16 March 2014 and held in conjunction with the International Furniture Fair Singapore / ASEAN Furniture Show (IFFS/ AFS), a leading furniture trade fair in the Asian region with a strong focus on design. Co-located with the IFFS/AFS are The Décor Show, and new debuts and Hospitality 360°. The events provide a comprehensive suite of furniture and furnishing products for the residential, commercial and hospitality projects.

To continually provide additional exposure and open doors for its members, SFIC has been identifying key events in the international furniture arena for both manufacturers and designers to participate in. Such platforms are instrumental for the participating companies to not only develop business networks but also gain first-hand industry information of new export markets. Other than the International Furniture Fair Singapore (IFFS), SFIC has led contingents of furniture companies to Germany, Dubai, China and Indonesia this year.

Another SFIC initiative is Singapore Lah!, which sets the stage for Singapore designers to launch new prototypes, and at the same time expand their businesses multilaterally in the global marketplace. In 2013, the Singapore Lah! Showcase promoted collaboration among the multi-faceted design disciplines and collectively presented Singapore’s finest design concepts in Milan. It also provided opportunities for European companies to collaborate with Singapore’s participants to create product concepts with a Western design but suitable for the Asian markets.

Singapore’s furniture industry has evolved and expanded to include streamlined processes such as overseas manufacturing plants and multiple regional offices located strategically in new markets


Moving Forward
Through constant rapport building and close collaboration with government ministries and statutory boards, SFIC has supported businesses in their development and expansion, as well as fostered individuals in their ambitions to succeed within the furniture or design industries.

Moving forward, SFIC is embarking on a 3-year plan, which strives to promote “Business Design Thinking” and “Unification” to ensure the continued growth and dynamism of Singapore’s furniture industry. Themed the 3i Approach – Improve, Innovate and Integrate, each of these component places emphasis on different aspect with actionable steps:

i) IMPROVE
Adopting “Business Design Thinking” to all business and design processes. Design thinking is not just a process; it is a mindset and a way of life.

ii) INNOVATE
The journey towards branding and design will include;
a. SingaPlural - To leverage on design-centric capabilities. SFIC has made good progress and achievements in its journey to growing and profiling the design potential of Singapore’s furniture industry on the map.

b. Elevating current platforms – The next edition of International Furniture Fair Singapore /ASEAN Furniture Show (IFFS/AFS) with feature new debuts - Hospitality 360 and Art of Living Asia, which will provide a comprehensive suite of furniture and furnishing products for the residential, commercial and hospitality projects and industry.

c. SFIC Institute - To provide training and workshops with “Design Thinking”.

d. The creation of Design Super Studio.

iii) INTEGRATE
a) Intra-integration between all four silos of the industry (manufacturers, contract manufacturers, retailers and designers) and members and companies alike

b) Inter-integration between relevant industries with the furniture industry to further enhance and refine the industry’s paradigm

The 3i Approach will facilitate continued growth and expansion of the industry by fostering the development of capabilities among local enterprises and talents, as well as encouraging more designcentric thinking within businesses and next generation entrepreneurship. Through this plan, SFIC envision to continue assisting its members in expanding into the world market, thereby transforming Singapore’s furniture industry into a creative and innovative global powerhouse.