Malaysia's largest furniture exhibition – Malaysian International Furniture Fair (MIFF) – opened yesterday at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) in Kuala Lumpur, with sponsors expecting a strong turnover and sales.
Now into its ninth year, MIFF 2003 is the largest ever, with more than 400 exhibitors taking up 600,000 sq ft of floor space.
Last year, the five-day exhibition attracted 350 exhibitors who took up 500,000 sq ft of floor space at the PWTC. More than 6,000 international visitors attended the fair which generated RM537mil in export sales.
Reporters YVONNE CHONG and YAP LIH HUEY attended the opening of MIFF 2003 and spoke to some international buyers.
Kristine Guiao Pascual, of furniture trading company OffiSynergy Inc, the Philippines
This is the fourth time I've been here (MIFF). I come here every year because Malaysia has good products – good quality and reasonably priced. About 80% of our products are imported from Malaysia. We supply office systems, and dining furniture for restaurants and food courts. We're not so much into home furniture.
We've a few suppliers from Malaysia and we're happy with them, especially Kian Sdn Bhd. They have good quality products, good designs and good people. They're flexible and they really take care of you.
We also have some suppliers from US but our clients normally prefer Malaysian brands. The quality is almost on par with international standards – some are there already, some close. And they come up with new designs. The designs can't compare with Italy's, but for the price you have to pay for Italian goods, it's more worth it to get (supply) from Malaysia.
Roger Harris, category manager, Pacific Retail Group Ltd (New Zealand)
We are furniture importers, sellers and agents for the Australian and New Zealand markets. I think this year the exhibition is larger and there is more overseas exposure. We specialise in outdoor furniture, so we are always checking and looking to see if there are new manufacturers.
We represent three Malaysian manufacturers at the moment and we always look to build our margins and the amount of money that we spend (importing furniture) each year. Last year, we spent about US$750,000 on Malaysian products and we hope to build on that again this year. We hope to spend US$1mil this year, if we can.”
We deal a lot with standard and traditional designs but we are also looking at other designs that come along. We are always on the lookout for contemporary (designs) and we always find it here.
The Australasia furniture market is performing well. There is still a demand for our types of products although the global economy is down. We haven't seen any impact on our outdoor products yet and we will continue to see growth on the short-term.
Paul Marshall, joint managing director, Woodstock Reproductions Ltd (Britain)
This is our third year here. We are a furniture importer for the British market. Compared to last year's exhibition, there are more products than we expected this year. Out of our total import volume, we are importing about 60% Malaysian furniture.
We are dealing with two companies at the moment and are looking for a range of furniture, be it from existing or new suppliers. We hope to spend millions (on imports) this year but it has to be complemented with a successful range of furniture.
And yes, the furniture last year differed from this year's because it is about style ... it's about fashion. It is interesting to see companies developing “what's next.” I mean, like a chair on a stand with a glass on the back.
I don't know yet (this year's furniture fashion trend). We just attended a trade show in England and it seemed that there is an awful lot of imported leather in the dining range. However, it is interesting see different types of furniture here because it is for the world market.
Reza Ali Bader, consulting engineer, Dar Al-Tasmeem Engineering Consultancy (Bahrain)
This is my first year to this exhibition and we have been here for half an hour. So far so good. The Malaysian furniture industry is famous. Personally, I've been buying furniture from Bahrain but because of the increase in demand for furniture, we have to come down here to see and order Malaysian furniture.
The quality and price of Malaysian furniture in Bahrain is good. We are seeing the middle, upper class in Bahrain buying Malaysian furniture and we will target this group of people. However, the upper class also thinks European furniture is of slightly better quality than Asian furniture, but not that much. We are looking to buy furniture for the outdoors, and living room and bedroom.
Ryuji Nagano, overseas division, purchase department, Fujishi Co Ltd (Japan)
My company is a furniture wholesaler in Osaka and I have been coming here for the last few years. There are not many changes in the exhibition. For this year, we are looking at buying compact and European-style furniture, which are more suitable for the Japanese market. We have three suppliers in Malaysia and about 5% of our wholesale products come from Malaysia. We will still maintain our Malaysian furniture imports of about 20 containers annually. The quality and design of the furniture here are pretty much the same compared to last year.
Helen Engfelt, entrepreneur, Nordic Design (Sweden):
I'm looking for modern, contemporary designs for tables and chairs but it will be highly selective because my business specialises in hand-picked items only. I have not decided on how much to spend. I've got some brochures and local contacts here, and will follow up with them later.
Salim G. Joonas, director of AG Joonas Group, a Mauritius conglomerate that has a furniture-based subsidiary Nova Industries, with annual turnover of US$2bil
I've been coming here (MIFF) for the past three years. I make it a point to come. It is well organised and it gets better every year. There are a lot of choices and I great ideas from this fair.
We've been buying from Malaysia since 15 years ago. We're a furniture manufacturer but we also import. We can't make all the furniture we need because we do a lot of contract work, especially from the government. When we get the tenders, we get the raw materials, and also ready-made furniture from here.
About 60% of our imports from Malaysia are raw materials such as raw boards and wood, and parquet; and 40% furniture, mainly office furniture. Malaysian products (furniture and raw material) have very good acceptance in Mauritius. The quality is high; the price is good and the design excellent.
M. Iqbal Siraj, chief executive of American Furniture, Karachi
We've imported five containers from Malaysia, mostly from American Home Furnishing Sdn Bhd and Master Sofa Industries Sdn Bhd. We're very satisfied with the quality and price of the products and that's why we're here (at the MIFF 2003). We plan to have more shipments from Malaysia. Malaysian furniture has good response among our customers.
I think compared with other countries, the quality and price of Malaysian furniture are still the best. Yes, China is cheaper, but we compare "quality and price," not just the price.
We're the first company in Pakistan to import furniture from Malaysia. Maybe later when others see the quality and design of Malaysian furniture, they might want to start importing too.
David A. Barnes, director of Containers Direct Ltd, Scotland
I've been to this fair many times, maybe five or six. It's quieter than usual this year. Walking around, I think the crowd is about 30% less. It's probably the fear in Europe and US about the possibility of war and they don't want to travel. I'm happy to be back in Malaysia. I enjoy the country, the hospitality, and the culture. MIFF is a good business show. We came to find new partners.
We're a product sourcing company for big chain stores in Britain. They tell us what furniture they want and we source for them. We like to buy from Malaysia but the biggest problem we have with Malaysian furniture is the design. It's not the people, or the quality; it's the design issue. We see too much of the same. It seems like they're copying each other and not coming up with their own designs.
The quality of Malaysian furniture is good but the fear is China. They've been investing in plants and machinery and travelling to foreign countries like Italy and getting better designs.
Malaysian furniture needs more interesting designs. The saying "less is more" applies here. When the design is complicated, it may be good for certain markets, like the Middle East, but not for Europe. Europeans like clean, contemporary and simple designs.
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