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Made to Measure Making the Running at the Guangzhou Furniture Fair

Bespoke was the watchword at Guangzhou's 37th China International Furniture Fair with many exhibitors only too keen to showcase their customising capabilities, while younger buyers had more of an eye on environmentally friendly items.

Photo: Home furnishing designs on shown.
Home furnishing designs on shown.
Photo: Home furnishing designs on shown.
Home furnishing designs on shown.

Custom made pieces were the talk of the 37th China International Furniture Fair (Guangzhou), with many exhibitors focussing on their bespoke services. In an exhibition covering the themes of home furniture, décor, textiles, and outdoor living, fresh modern designs also proved popular, especially with younger consumers. Designs for smarter and more environmentally friendly living were a strong emerging trend, as was increasing focus on product quality, while some furniture professionals bemoaned the decline in bricks-and-mortar retail in favour of online sales.

Customisation No Longer Optional

Bespoke furniture was popular with customers of all ages at this year's fair, with many consumers turning away from off-the-shelf mass-produced pieces – albeit mainly buyers with more generous budgets. Customer demand for greater individuality also compelled exhibitors to increase the variety of their exhibits in an attempt to cater for diverse tastes.

Landbond, a furniture maker from Guangdong, presented six major series of products and services at the fair, including Landbond Home Furnishing, Landbond Minim Sofas, Landbond Morpheus Mattresses, Landbond Corten (the company's made-to-order service), Landbond Balta Carpets and Landbond Export Sofas. The company's Corten products include a European-styled series, panel closets, wall-mounted closets, sliding door wardrobes, aluminium alloy closets, hinged door wardrobes, partition door series, and bookcases.

Photo: Home décor in the spotlight.
Home décor in the spotlight.
Photo: Home décor in the spotlight.
Home décor in the spotlight.
Photo: Designs for comfortable living.
Designs for comfortable living.
Photo: Designs for comfortable living.
Designs for comfortable living.

Landbond Vice President, Li Hongyao, said: "Our bespoke service is not just about the customisation of panel furniture, we design homes and living spaces as well. We use panel products to create space, use fitted furniture to create a tasteful surrounding, and use soft fittings and decorations to create a comfortable mood. We take a holistic approach."

Landbond used the show to debut its VRHome pre-sale viewing system. Using virtual reality technology, this system allows consumers to have a 'virtual experience' of the company's 100-plus 3D furnishing designs, with viewers experiencing room designs from within using virtual reality headsets. With more than 1,000 modular products in its database, Landbond can provide customers with highly personalised furnishing designs.

Kinwai from Jiangmen also saw great demand for custom furniture. The company's Marketing Director, Liu Haitao, said: "Our company has been making panel furniture for more than 20 years.  Furniture stores are attracting fewer and fewer visitors these days, and rent and operating costs are high. The panel furniture sold online offers both variety and value for money. Customisation is our way out. We focus on custom furnishing at present."

According to Liu Haitao, home furnishing products have difficulty attracting customers if they don't offer a customisation service, prompting Kinwai to launched a full house customisation service last year. Although customised panel products only accounted for 10% of its product mix last year, the company plans to raise the proportion to 40% in 2016.

Designer Lines Vital To Capture Younger Consumers

China has experienced one of the greatest booms ever seen in housing markets in recent years. As people of the post-1980s and 1990s generations become home buyers, home furnishing designs catering to their tastes are dominant. Many exhibitors reported that they are now shifting to more youthful, stylish and minimalist designs to capitalise on this market trend.

Guangzhou Kinetic Home Furnishings Co Ltd, part of Hong Kong's Kangsheng Group, is a maker of stylish modern furniture. The company started off as a maker of metal and glass products with a distinctive design. Kinetic's 'casual' series mainly targets young consumers with its smart and lightweight appearance.

According to Chen Yazhuo, the company's Marketing Manager, Kinetic pays great attention to product design because it mainly produces ready-made furniture. Stylish products prove popular, not just with younger customers, but are also welcomed by consumers of different age groups, as Chinese buyers seek more individuality. Kinetic has penetrated all first- and second-tier cities and is venturing into third- and fourth-tier cities. It now has nearly 500 stores across the country and achieved a turnover growth rate of close to 20% in 2015.

Photo: Minimalist dining room design.
Minimalist dining room design.
Photo: Minimalist dining room design.
Minimalist dining room design.
Photo: Panel shelving: Popular in 2016.
Panel shelving: Popular in 2016.
Photo: Panel shelving: Popular in 2016.
Panel shelving: Popular in 2016.

Landbond also sees the potential of young consumers. Li Hongyao said that the company targets young people with products at affordable price points. The Landbond exhibit at the fair devoted a lot of space to furniture of youthful, stylish and minimalist designs.

The need to appeal to a wide variety of tastes is shown by the breadth of styles and furniture series that Landbond offers. The company promoted the Jianzhong (minimalist Chinese), Jianou (minimalist European) and Jianyue (minimalist modern) styles at the Landbond Design Show in Shanghai in September 2015. The Qing Shi Shang (simple and stylish) series launched both online and offline last year has quickly won the support of young people with its modular flexibility, according to the company. At this year's fair, Landbond added four modular custom cabinets and new functional products with more storage for maximising space in small apartments to its list of exhibits.

Landbond's Yi Pin You (Top Teak) series mainly includes modern Chinese-style furniture, stylish western furniture and its Zen series furniture. Its Xin Dong Fang (New Orient) series incorporates the lifestyle and habits of Asian people to produce simple and refreshing designs. The Xun Jue Shi Jia (Noble House) series makes use of metal to create a modern look, while the Eglogue series draws inspiration from European Impressionist paintings, with consumers able to mix and match from the seven colours of the rainbow to personalise their designs.

Product Quality is The New Battleground

Photo: Panel furniture courtesy of Kinwai.
Panel furniture courtesy of Kinwai.
Photo: Panel furniture courtesy of Kinwai.
Panel furniture courtesy of Kinwai.

Since all home products have a good appearance, quality is becoming of increasing concern for discerning consumers. Exhibitors at the show reported that visitors asked about raw materials, life span and quality of the products on offer.

Liu Haitao from Kinwai said the company uses barcodes on every panel that goes into its custom furniture. This means that every step of the production process, from cutting to drilling to installation, can be traced to ensure quality, enabling the company to discover the source of any problems more quickly, should they occur.

Kinwai also makes use of advanced wood graining techniques to produce surfaces that can resist abrasion, heat, shock, cigarette burns, fire, bacteria, fumigation and static charge. It uses eco-friendly paints that meet EU and Japanese environmental standards to ensure a healthy and pollution-free living environment.

Kinetic also attaches great importance to product quality. Chen Yazhuo said that Kinetic uses walnut wood from North America in its hardwood furniture, which has a long growth cycle and good quality. The use of good timber ensures quality and helps to sustain the company's reputation compared with its competitors.

Photo: Bespoke children’s furniture.
Bespoke children's furniture.
Photo: Bespoke children’s furniture.
Bespoke children's furniture.

Kinetic uses eco-friendly foams instead of traditional foam rubber for its sofas. Bamboo charcoal foam and soy foam can absorb odours and purify the air, while some believe that the far-infrared radiation of these materials many be able to revitalise aging cells and improve blood circulation.

Other eye-catching exhibits at the event included, Renluc from Qingdao, which showed a wide range of colourful chairs; Aixuexi (IStudy) from Xiamen presenting chairs which it claimed can help prevent children from developing myopia and poor posture and an ergonomic furniture series from Shenzhen's Sampo, which makes use of water-based paints that are safer and more environmentally friendly.

The 37th China International Furniture Fair (Guangzhou) was held at the China Import and Export Fair Pazhou Complex and Poly World Trade Center from 18-21 March. According to the show's organisers, over 3,800 exhibitors from more than 30 countries and regions took part.

Jian Wei, Special Correspondent, Guangzhou

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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