Country Report  



Philippines Furniture Market


The Philippines is well known in the international market for its artistic furniture design. From the design and production point of view, i t is touted to be the Milan of Asia. With a creative people and skilled craftsmen, the country boasts quality design and craftsmanship. Its products command a premium in the world market selling predominantly to the middle to high-end markets. Centre for Industrial Studies (CSIL), a research agency specialized in the furniture industry, ranks the Philippines as the 48th furniture exporter at a world level. The United States remains the country’s largest export market for furniture, absorbing around 45% of Filipino furniture exports. Based on information provided by the Chamber of Furniture Industries of The Philippines (CFIP), the country’s furniture industry continues to be one of the nation’s highest export sales earners. This credit goes obviously to the continued international recognition for excellence in product design and craftsmanship as well as creativity and innovation in the application of materials which the country is also well known for. The industry has grown to be the vibrant contributor to the economy that it is. Despite increasing competition from neighbouring countries, the industry continues to make an impact in the highly competitive furniture market, its positive prospects is something CFIP is confident of.

However, much is unknown about the Philippines domestic retail market. From the little that is gathered, it is developing but rather fragmented. Although there are a few players with several shops in different locations, the retail scene in general appears to be dominated by small scale retailers. In this feature, FFE talks to BLIMS Lifestyle Group, a leading multi-brand retailer as well as MSS Furniture Company, a major wholesaler.

INTERVIEW WITH BLIMS LIFESTYLE GROUP INC. (BLG), A LEADING FURNITURE RETAILER GROUP

FFE: BLIMS Lifestyle Group has had an illustrious history as a major retailer in the Philippines furniture market. Who are the key persons in the company?
BLG: We are a family run business. The top management of BLG consists of Mr Samie Lim, Chairman; Mrs Carrie Lim, Vice- Chairman; Mr Sam Frederick Lim, President and Mr Sam Gregory Lim, Vice President

FFE: What are the cateogories that BLG carries?
BLG: Our group covers virtually all categories. For example in the Living Room, we have sofas, ocassional tables, storage solutions, recliners; in Dining, we have dining tables, chairs, sideboards; in Bedroom, we have beds, mattresses, case goods. We also supply small accessories and office Furniture.

FFE: What are the brands under BLG and the segments served?
BLG: We have a wide portfolio of brands. They are
A. BLIMS Fine Furniture- a furniture retail concept that sells everything you need to turn your house into a home. BLIMS provides quality furniture with modern contemporary designs that fit into today's urban lifestyle. It carries everything from sofas, dining sets, beds & mattresses to home accessories and office furniture.
B. SOGO Home and Office — a furniture retail concept that focuses on clients who are furnishing their first homes. SOGO provides furniture that is easy on the pocket. Its tagline, "Everyday Low Prices" provides its clients with an assortment of styles at affordable prices.
C. La-Z-Boy — an iconic American brand whose name has become synonymous with comfort and quality. La-Z-Boy, the world's favorite recliner, was first introduced to the Philippines in the 1980s and has quickly gained a foothold in the market. Now the brand carries a wide assortment of upholstered products including motion sofas, power recliners, leather and fabric stationary sofas.
D. Cellini- a brand of European inspired furniture with a presence in over 20 countries world wide. Cellini's style is understated modern with an emphasis on clean and sleek lines as well as innovative materials and finishes.
E. Maestro- A line of contemporary leather sofas with a focus on comfort and quality. It's tagline "A name that lasts" emphasizes the brands commitment to providing quality, long lasting upholstered sofas.
F. Office World — A home grown brand of BLIMS Fine Furniture, Office World is your goto source for office furnishings. With a wide selection of products in convenient locations and at reasonable prices, one will surely be able to find what they are looking for. The BLG Group's various brands allow it to serve multiple markets with a current presence in the mass, mid and high end segments.

FFE: P lease describe BLG’s market presence
BLG: We have adequate coverage of the Philippines market. Not only do we have physical stores, we have strong presence online as well. For the stores, BLIMS Fine Furniture has 15 showrooms; SOGO Home and Office has 5 showrooms; La-Z-Boy has 3 La-ZBoy Gallery with products also available in over 40 dealer locations; Cellini has 1 showroom operating as Cellini Design Galler and 3 storein- store galleries. All of them are supported by websites and social media.

FFE: What would you consider as the core strengths of BLG?
BLG: Our major strengths would have to be our PRODUCTS and our PLACE.
We travel to shows in Europe, US and Asia. We shop the world and bring in trends that we know will be liked by the market. We not only look at the design of the furniture piece but we also make sure that it passes our quality standards.
Our stores are strategically located in all the major shopping centers because we want to provide our customers with that convenience.

FFE: Where do you source your products and what are your criteria? BLG: We buy mostly from established American, European, Singaporean, Malaysian and Taiwanese companies. While many of them have factories in China, Malaysia and Thailand, what we look at in the company is their quality standards in manufacturing. We make sure that they are well established and have good reputations in producing quality products and they have passed the stringent standards of the European and American markets.

FFE: Can you share some of your strategies going forward? BLG: We plan to expand its current retail concepts and brand portfolios as well as add new internationally acclaimed brands into its fold.
BLIMS will look into opening more company stores in Metro Manila and other major cities in the Country. While La-Z-Boy Gallery and Cellini stores will seek partnerships in key provincial areas to make their products available nationwide.
SOGO will be an active member of the international A. Sachi- Garant Group. From this partnership it seeks to upgrade its concept and format to be able to achieve greater scale and open up in new locations nationwide. BLG Inc. will also be bringing in new European brands for the high-end market.

FFE: BLG has entered into a JV with Garant Moebel, a large and successful European furniture group with international presence to form A. Sachi Garant. What brought about this development?
BLG: With the huge growth of the Philippine Economy, the local players have become threatened by Western concepts entering the market. With the pending Asean Integration (AEC) in the following years, we will also see an increased presence of furniture concepts form our neighboring countires. As such, we see this new Joint Venture as a way to bring world class knowledge and experience to the local market. We want to upgrade the total furniture customer experience through the improvement of merchandising, store design, marketing, customer service and training through best practices learned from over 3,000 partner members worldwide of Garant.

FFE: What benefits would the new entity bring to the JV partners? With the combined furniture experience of the Garant Group worldwide (50 years) and A. Sachi Philippines (75 years), we believe that the group has a good insight on the key marketing and management principals needed to run a successful furniture business. Each JV partner can learn from the experiences of each other and bring both the Western and the Eastern furniture market best practices into the fold.

FFE: What benefits will A Sachi Garant bring to member-retailers in the Philippines? BLG: Aside from what was mentioned earlier, retailer members will be given access to more furniture sources, better pricing and better financial flexibility in buying furniture. One added bonus is the Garant Training Academy. While there are a lot of retail academies, there is none in the Philippines that focus in running a furniture retail business. This Academy will impart knowledge gained from over 3000 retail members as well as different markets around the world. Training can be given to all the critical job functions needed in running a successful furniture retail business as well as thrive against competition.

FFE: What are your targets?
BLG: We target to open over 100 stores nationwide within 5 years.

INTERVIEW WITH MSS FURNITURE COMPANY, A MAJOR FURNITURE WHOLESALE COMPANY

FFE: MSS Furniture Company is a major furniture player in the Philippines. Please describe your business.
MSS: We are an importer and wholesaler of home and office furniture. We supply to retailers nationwide. MSS is a family owned business run by Moses Lin and Sally A. Lin, a husband and wife team

FFE: How is work divided between the spouses?
MSS: Moses is the one dealing with all our suppliers. He is the one traveling frequently to source out good quality furnitures at reasonable prices. Each year, he attends many furniture exhibitions. Not only do we get to see the latest products, it is during these visits and talking to the industry that we gain more insights and understanding as to the needs of our clientele.
On the other hand, Sally takes charge of the internal function of the company. Her responsibilities include customer service. We are strong in our sourcing and in turn are able to give our customers a wide range of comfortable, elegant and extraordinary furniture to choose from. Sally supervises a team of sales representatives working on the ground and supports their dealings with our clients. She is also responsible for managing the finances of the company.

FFE: How is the top management supported?
MSS: Human resources is our key assets. We are happy to be supported by a capable middle management team. There are three on our staffing that help ensure smooth running of our operations:
Mr. Ruben Largo is our supervisor who is in charge of the daily operation in the warehouse and see to it that all deliveries are on schedule. Ms. Shiela Quirao is our supervisor for administration.
Mr. Eduardo Tan is our assistant supervisor in the warehouse.

FFE: What are the categories of products MSS covers
MSS: We seek to be a one-stop shop for our customers and as such, we do have quite a wide variety of products. They include bedroom sets, dining sets, sofa sets, wardrobes, kitchen cabinets, entertainment sets, office tables, office chairs, coffee tables, bookshelves, center and side tables, stand mirrors, plastic chairs, dividers, tv stands, LCD stands, filing cabinet, computer tables, shoe cabinets, rocking chairs, hanger stands, children cabinets, park bench sets, bar stools, console table, chest of drawers, utility carts and utility racks.

FFE: How did the company started in this business and where does MSS stand at this moment?
MSS: Our furniture business kicked off back in 1999 with only two employees helping us. We started with a small rented warehouse in Caloocan with a second hand truck that was used for delivery. It was through hard work and perseverance that helped us remain in the furniture business. MSS has been around for 15 years despite ever growing competition. Since year 2004, we have moved to our present location inside the Sterling Industrial Park in Meycauayan, Bulacan which houses many establishments. As our business volume grew, we have now five warehouses. Our network of customers nationwide is serviced by 10 delivery trucks plying non-stop delivering the orders of our various customers. At present we employ more than 80 employees consisting of managerial position, supervisors, warehouse in-charge, office staff, sales representatives, repair and maintenance crew, delivery crew, drivers including the rank and file.

FFE: What are MSS’ strengths that sets the company apart from the competition?
MSS: The strength of our company is its ability to provide our clients with unlimited, comfortable, elegant, stylish and high quality products at reasonable and affordable prices. This is our commitment to our clients. We believe that if our customers do well, so will we. In addition, timely delivery is very important in this business, so we do our best to accommodate all our customers' needs and to deliver their orders on time. These efforts help foster a harmonious and long lasting relationships with our clientele.
Success is not possible without a good team. We have quality staff which we take care of. We are grateful to them, many of who had stayed with us through the years and see MSS Furniture Co. grow into a big enterprise. Staying on the course we are on, we are looking forward to many more fruitful years to come.

FFE: Where are your sources of supply?
MSS: Our furniture are directly imported from China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand. The majority of them come from China (about 64%) and Malaysia (about 29%). Not only are their prices more competitive, the furniture is well-crafted with beautiful designs.

FFE: How do you see the Philippines furniture market? MSS: As the real estate sector is expected to continuously go on an upswing, the outlook for our market is good. In the Philippines, both retail and institutional consumers are still inclined to buy imported furniture or home furnishing products. We would say more than half of the Philippine furniture and home furnishing demand is fulfilled by imports.

FFE: What are your plans for the next 3-5 years?
MSS: As the economy develops and living conditions continue to improve, people are becoming more and more willing to invest in home furnishing and decoration. These trends have a strong influence on their buying decision. We believe the people's increasing purchasing power will drive the furniture market to grow in leaps and bounds for the next 3-5 years.