American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) is a trade and industry association. It is an international trade and non-for-profit association with its headquarters in Washington DC, with five overseas offices of which two are in Asia – Hong Kong and Osaka.

Our activities involve implementing promotion programs on behalf of the American hardwood industry and exporters to provide information and services to overseas markets in support of the industry. This includes exhibiting in major trade shows and exhibitions in the region, conducting seminars and hosting an annual convention as well as media conferences and a full program of public relations.

How has 2016 been for the region you cover?

The year of 2016 been a challenging one for business, but marked by growth. The world value of global exports of U.S. hardwood was US$2.65 billion, a rise of 5.9% with Southeast Asia and Greater China accounting for 54.8%.

What were the challenges and opportunities faced?

The main challenges and opportunities are to convince designers and manufacturers to use a variety of species and grades of the U.S. hardwoods.

Were there any interesting trend(s) that has developed/is developing in your market?

One interesting trend that has appeared to develop is the sign of a comeback for Cherry, which is a beautiful and sustainable wood appreciated in China for interior design.

How do you see the year 2017?

We see the year 2017, with all the current geopolitical uncertainties, as one in which free trade negotiations will be important, as we hope a global economic recovery will speed up. Currently it is still slow.

What steps are you taking to address the challenges and opportunities?

The steps we are taking to address the challenges and opportunities are similar each year as we have learned the strength of continuity in promotion. AHEC was formed in 1988, since when we have learned many lessons about what works. Meanwhile we intend to increase awareness of new products and technologies, such as Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and Thermally Modified Timber (TMT) – both in hardwoods.

Established in 1981, Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC) is the official representative body of Singapore’s furniture and furnishings industry. Its members comprises furniture manufacturers, interior fit-out specialists, retailers, designers, as well as furnishings and materials suppliers. The Council represents 95% local furniture manufacturers, of whom 65% have manufacturing plants overseas..

How has 2016 been for your organisation?

Overall, we have seen a good industry performance so far, Singapore’s total market share has increased by close to 8% from 2012 to $6.27 billion in 2015, which is very encouraging due to the slow economy.

Amongst the various industry clusters, contract manufacturers, retailers and designers continued to grow, amidst the tough market conditions. Wholesalers and manufacturers, on the other hand, experienced a slight dip, mainly due to the slowdown in the global economy.

Although industry players have remained prudent when expressing future growth expectations due to global market conditions, the industry is expected to remain strong with a forecasted value of S$6.09 billion in 2016.

How do you see the year 2017?

The world furniture market is chugging along – with a forecast CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of about 4.2% from 2016 – 2020. (Source: Tecgnavio). But global e-commerce furniture and homewares market revenue is set to double in in the next five years.

According to Fung Global Retail Tech, global online furniture and homewares revenues totaled approximately US$110 billion in 2015. And much of the revenues is clocked in Asia – with China generating almost half of the total global market revenues. Online furniture sales is expected to increase by a five-year CAGR of 15% to US$220 billion in 2020.

As the trend towards digitalization has crept through the lives of everyday consumers, furniture and furnishings businesses have to keep up with demands to provide faster, hassle free shopping experiences online.

Many traditional business models would have to keep up with the changing digital landscape. This presents vast opportunities for organisations, such as the revamping of internal processes to become more efficient, and creating new branding and marketing strategies to better reach customers around the world. However, this may also come with some risks businesses must be vigilant of.

Organisations must ensure proper training for employees to use new technologies and assess the readiness of the host country to embrace technological change if going overseas. Ultimately, each business is unique. It is imperative to find a way digitalisation can be integrated into the organisation to best fit its operational needs and stay relevant in today’s ever changing digital marketplace.

What steps are you taking to address the challenges and opportunities?

In response to the rapid rise of the digital economy, SFIC will pursue a new “digital” strategy to help its members embrace the digital transformation to scout new market opportunities and grow their business.

This strategic initiative is called “Smart SFIC” : it will include plans such as establishing new online platforms for e-commerce, big data for market intelligence and analysis, and using Internet of Things (IOT) to help SMEs take advantage of new opportunities in the digital economy.

Smart SFIC is not just about technology. It is also about Smart Design – where we will encourage industry players to deploy design innovation as a key competitive edge for growth. We must accelerate transformation from a design perspective where we will work with companies to enhance design content in their work to create superior value.

SFIC is rebranding itself to become more of an eco-system which encompasses a larger community of lifestyle players that will serve a more sophisticated consumer generation. We will need to take a more collaborative approach with partners from different adjacent sectors to promote the interests of our members and grow their businesses. By offering total lifestyle concepts (beyond just furniture), we will help our members increase their portfolio of offerings and expand their customer base.”

Going forward, we want to rejuvenate and bring fresh perspectives to confront new challenges. Hence, we will bring more 2nd and 3rd generation leaders on- board; grow the SFIC’s Youth Furniture Committee (YFC) and create more opportunities for regional networking through our ASEAN Youth Entrepreneurs Exchange Programme.

International Famous Furniture Fair (Dongguan), also known as Dongguan 3F Furniture Fair, is a major event for the furniture & furnishing industry in China and abroad. Owing to Dongguan’s competitiveness as a key furniture manufacturing and the long history of Dongguan 3F Furniture Fair, the event has now grown to become one of the biggest and most professional furniture fairs in China.

How has 2016 been for your business?

2016 is a milestone of Dongguan 3F. We used to organise the fair twice a year, once in March and the other in September. In 2016, we moved the Autumn edition forward from September to August. It is in response to the requests of exhibitors and distributors alike. With the fair moved to August, distributors can have enough time for preparation for the October peak sales season. This change has turned out to be a great success. With the strong performance this year, more than 95% of the booths for our two editions in March and August 2017 have already been booked.

What were the challenges and opportunities faced?

The world economy during the past years have been unstable. Distributors & franchisees have become more indecisive when they come for their sourcing. The rates of growth for Chinese furniture export have declined these two years. 2017 is estimated to be another challenging year for the manufacturers. However, with our August 2016 witnessing a growth in the number of visitors, this indicates an active market attitude which will likely continue in the coming year.

Were there any interesting trend(s) that has developed/is developing in your business/market?

Duing the recent years, modern European style furniture continues to be popular in the Chinese market, especially Nordic style. Manufacturers of Classical furniture are seeking a new direction as the market shares continues on the decline. Original Design is gaining greater importance, so manufacturers are investing more in design and creation.

How do you see the year 2017?

2017 will be a year of striving for higher standards for furniture producers. Companies with better design and good quality will be able to attract greater attention. Trends and market forces will push manufacturers to upgrade themselves in a shorter time. There will be pressure on the industry to have a wide ranging upgrade. We are happy to see the positive change of the industry and we will definitely do what we can do to help the manufacturers to adjust their direction.

What steps are you taking to address the challenges and opportunities?

The biggest change of Dongguan 3F is to have moved the date of the Autumn fair. It has turned out to be a right decision and met the demands of exhibitors and distributors. In 2017, we will continue this change and help furniture businessmen better prepare for the market. Besides, in March 2017, we will launch a 3F Export Furniture Fair, which will be held during the same dates, from March 16-20. Gathering all the export exhibitors in an exclusive fair will create a better showcase and sourcing environment for both exhibitors and buyers. There will be many benefits available to visitors. For example, pre-registered overseas visitors will be able to enjoy priority benefits from our Overseas Buyer Hosted Program.

Founded in 1998, China International Furniture Fair (Guangzhou/ Shanghai) (“CIFF”) has been successfully held for 38 sessions. Every year it takes place in Guangzhou in March and in Shanghai- Hongqiao in September, radiating into the Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze River Delta, the two most dynamic business epicenters in China.

CIFF is well received by the furniture industry with its large scale, comprehensive exhibits, broad participation and high quality. Covering 1.15 million square meters throughout the year, CIFF connects the upstream and downstream industry, offering a onestop solution for home furniture, home decor, home textiles, outdoor furniture, office furniture, commercial furniture, hotel furniture, furniture machinery & raw materials. Every year the spring and autumn editions respectively connect over 3900 and 2000 world leading brands with more than 250,000 professional attendees from 200 countries and regions, creating immense business value for the industry.

What were the challenges and opportunities?

With a slowdown in the world economy, investment and trade has been weak. In 2016, furniture manufacturers faced a lot of difficulties, such as the increase in labour costs, material costs and transportation costs, requirement of higher standards in environmental protection as well as more fierce competition in the market. The world consumption also suffered from a difficult economy, especially in Europe, the Middle East and South America. Furniture manufacturers are in urgent need of transformation and upgrading to meet the challenges.

Were there any interesting trend(s) that has developed/ is developing in your market?

There were emerging sectors in the furniture industry that gained more momentum than others, such as smart home, customized solutions, soft decoration, neo-Chinese styles, and etc.

How do you see the year 2017?

The challenges in 2016 are likely to continue in 2017. Despite a worldwide economic slowdown, China is still embracing more opportunities than challenges as the world’s largest consumer market. In four years, China will fully realize the goal of building a well-off society and eliminating poverty. The scale of the middle class will reach or exceed the total population of the U.S. Therefore, China will not just be the biggest furniture producer, but also the biggest furniture buyer. There is a huge buying power in China which will offer enormous ROI for trade and investment activities. CIFF is no doubt the gateway to this attractive market.

What steps are you taking to address the challenges and opportunities?

CIFF fully understand the challenges the furniture manufacturers are facing as well as the opportunities the industry is embracing. Sticking to the principle of prioritizing exhibitors and visitors, CIFF will take a variety of measures to improve the show participation experience and create more value industry stakeholders.

Optimize exhibition layout:
We will give more weight to newly emerging themes, such as smart furniture, customized furniture, rosewood, neo-Chinese style, healthcare furniture, outdoor gardening, etc. In order to facilitate trade, we will specially set two export sections in CIFF Guangzhou 2017, one for dining and living room furniture, the other for sofa.

More interesting events:
CIFF is a dynamic platform that integrates abundant resources and reaches to a wide range of industry stakeholders in China and worldwide. In 2017, we will fully display our strength in “matching”, connecting our exhibitors and visitors with what they search for and what they are in need of. We will hold a variety of trade matchmaking events which effectively connects suppliers and buyers. We will introduce the ASFD Pinnacle Awards by working with the American Society of Furniture Designers and Highpoint Market, matching great furniture design from CIFF with the U.S. market. We will organize China Decoration Design Conference to bring soft loading decoration brands and interior designers together. There will be lots of interesting and exciting matching events, all catering to the needs of every industry stakeholder.

Shanghai UBM Sinoexpo is a professional trade show organizer, having 62 international exhibitions in four channels which included furniture, hotel, design & deco and leisure & boat, gathering over 7,000 exhibitors and several thousand million traders together, with a total exhibition area of over 900,000 sqm, among which, China International Furniture Expo (abbr. Furniture China) is the biggest trade fair with around 350,000 sqm in total. Furniture China, founded in year 1993, and with over 22 years of development, has become one of the most trade important platforms for sourcing furniture, manufacturing & supply, design & furnishing in the world.

How has 2016 been?

The biggest change of 2016 is the positive audience growth. On 11 September 2016, Furniture China and the new-launched Maison Shanghai both ushered in a perfect conclusion for its 2016 edition. The four-day exhibition attracted buyers and visitors from more than 158 countries and regions all over the globe, receiving a total of 119,975 visits across the entire exhibition, up 17.75% compared to the statistics of the previous year. Much more new visitors have strengthened the position of our show.

The other issue is the quality improvement of the show by exhibiting companies and products. Furniture China keeps true to form and pursuing good quality as the most important core competitiveness. Hall W housed 7 key National Pavilions from France, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea and among others, covering 236 foreign brands in total from 26 countries and regions, accompanied by domestic leading brands in original furniture such as HC28, QM, Norya, U+, Dickson, Expocasa, etc.

In addition to the reasonable growth of visitors and products, Furniture China 2016 also achieved 10% growth of rent space. A total of nearly 3,500 exhibitors participate in Furniture China, Maison Shanghai and Shanghai Home Design Week, which has considerably increased 17% over last year.

What were the challenges faced?

Rising material and product costs with the downtrend of global economy are already affecting exports from China. From 1993 to 2014, export orientation was the core competitiveness of Furniture China show, until the number of overseas’ buyers fell for the first time since 2015. China’s economic development today has entered a long period of rapid growth, characterized by the decrease of export and investment, and the increase of domestic consumption. The biggest challenge is for China industry focusing on for medium and high-end products and try to penetrate or expand in the domestic market.

Fortunately, we are dedicated to promoting the transformation of the industry towards the high-end with original and lifestyles from the year of 2014, which were a meaningful milestone and a new starting for Furniture China. For that reason, the number of visitors and exhibitors is increasing steadily from 2014 to 2016, and many of our exhibitors have been transformed from export only to both exports and imports. This is yet another example demonstrating the transformations are successful, that the total number of overseas visits of Furniture China 2016 decreased to 15,077, a 21.58% cut from the year earlier, while for domestic visits increased to 104,898, and 26.70% higher.

Were there any interesting trend(s) that has developed/ is developing in your market?

The growth of show buyers is being partly driven by design. At this year’s Furniture China, varying lifestyles got a platform to be displayed. The design halls (Hall W4 and W5) and Design of Designers exhibition (abbr. DOD) are the high-popularity areas during the exhibition. Designer of Designers has ushered in its 5th year, with an area of about 8,000 square meters. 167 booths were orderly arranged, including independent design brands, independent designers and product design studios.

High-end manufacturing is another factor brought on visitor promotion. One of the onsite events named “The Sofa of China” Third Season aims to search for top Chinese materials, showcased 93 sofas from 52 enterprises for competition. The Awards evaluation was based on an overall criteria from appearance design, function innovation, materials, technology to price and cost performance. The competition selected “Top 10 Sofas”, “Top 10 Fabrics”, “Best Creative Award”, “Best Performance Award” and “Best Popularity Award”. Besides, the application of new materials in furniture was exceptionally amazing.

How do you see the year 2017?

For UBM Sinoexpo, about 80-90% of the exhibitions sales for the year 2017 have been completed. For Furniture China trade fair, we have more than 300 furniture companies who applied for 2017 are still on the waiting list. The main task for 2017 is strengthening our service, products and buyers continuously.