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Romanian furniture firms expect market recovery in 2013

Wednesday 31 October 2012

After poor sales in the first half of 2012, furniture retailers are pinning their hopes for better business on the second semester. But as Romanians remain price-conscious and manufacturers look for growth on external markets, the domestic market will continue to decline, and will most likely finish below the EUR 928 million level reported in 2011.
Domestic furniture sales are estimated to have reached EUR 378.2 million in the first half of the year and while the second half should bring better results, the forecast is not promising, say representatives of the Romanian Furniture Manufacturers Association (Asociatia Producatorilor de Mobila din Romania, or APMR). Sales are expected to be below last year for this period too and further forecasts depend entirely on the evolution of purchasing power, they told BR.
Highly dependent also on the construction and real estate field, the internal market is not showing signs of recovery, leaving many manufacturers and retailers with the only option of doing business outside the country. Furniture exports increased by 5 percent in the first semester of 2012 y-o-y, says APMR. Exports to EU countries, and even more so, to markets outside the EU, should increase further next year, according to the same source.
On the office furniture segment, the market posted a slight increase in the first six months of 2012, Christophe Weller, managing partner of Corporate Office Solutions (COS), told BR.
“It was simply due to the existence of more projects, meaning more companies moving to new facilities or revamping their existing workspace. The reason for this trend is the current state of the real estate market, offering high quality workspaces at very good rates. Therefore, some companies are taking the opportunity of having a tenant’s market to move to a new space or to renegotiate their existing space at a better rate, which automatically generates the need to buy new furniture,” he said.
But just as there is a tenant’s market for office real estate there is a buyer’s market for office furniture. “Buyers know that opportunities to sell furniture are rarer these days so their project is becoming even more important for all the potential sellers. Negotiations are harder and harsher,” he said, explaining that customers are making more informed choices by looking more closely at the companies which are tendering and the products proposed.
Demand continues to come mostly from IT companies, as well as professional services such as call centers and services support centers. “We’re also feeling an increasing presence of companies linked to the oil and gas industry,” said Weller. However there have been no real changes compared to the previous year.
In terms of products, the demand was mainly for functional and ergonomic furniture. The value of projects undertaken by COS is between EUR 10,000 and EUR 500,000 with an average of EUR 50,000 per project without “any real change compared to last year”.
The company’s turnover last year was slightly higher than in 2010. As part of its sales strategy, COS has hired additional sales representatives and renegotiated contracts with its existing manufactures “in order to get their commitment to helping the company with its pricing strategy” and is now revamping its showroom in Bucharest. The first half of 2012 brought encouraging results but the company remains cautious about the rest of the year. “We believe it will be a good achievement to finish the year at the same level as last year,” he said.
As for what can be expected of 2013, Weller is optimistic. “The future looks brighter. Major office buildings have started to be built or are nearly at that stage, so the 2013-2015 timeframe should boost the furniture market since these schemes will be completed and offered to major tenants. We are already hearing about some promising preleases and we are confident others will follow. If you compare Romania to north-western neighboring countries, you will see that there is still room for many more A class office buildings. In addition, there are some sectors that will provide more opportunities when the investments come at a bigger scale: healthcare, hospitality and education for instance,” he concluded.

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