Every March, tens of thousands of furniture players from around the world gather in Asia for one of seven export-oriented furniture trade fairs held in this region.
Last year, the dates of those shows in south-east Asia were packed tight, overlapping one another with little more than a week between the start of the first event and the close of the last one.
This year is little better – the first show, VIFA Expo Vietnam, will open on 6th March, while IFEX Indonesia, the last in the circuit, will close on the 14th. That gives the trade a four-day break before the mega Chinese show, CIFF Guangzhou (boasting a staggering total floor area of 760,000 sqm) opens.
Here’s a list of those major March fairs in the order of their opening dates (I’ve also added two Chinese events that are significant in size but predominantly oriented towards the Chinese domestic market, that some of you might like to know about): VIFA-EXPO (Vietnam), 6-9th; PIFS (Philippines), 7-9th; MIFF (Malaysia), 8-11th; EFE (Malaysia), 9-12th; IFFS (Singapore), 9-12th; IFEX (Indonesia), 11-14th; 3F (Dongguan, China, targets domestic Chinese market), 16-20th; CIFF Guangzhou (China), 18th-21st; and SIFE (Shenzhen, China, also targeting domestic Chinese market), 19th-22nd.
With the exception of IFFS Singapore, which seems to be undergoing a repositioning exercise to occupy a more upmarket spot with top-notch, design-focused content, almost all of Asia’s other shows are targeting a mass-market audience, and have expanded this year. This is generally a reflection of the manufacturers’ competitiveness, as well as an optimistic anticipation of the shift of US orders from China to the wider region.
The south-east Asian region and many of its exporters are benefiting from the ongoing trade war between China and the US. With the outcome of current negotiations between the two giants remaining uncertain while punitive tax is slapped on Chinese imports, this has continued to fuel the rate of Chinese manufacturers moving their production – in part or wholesale – to south-east Asia (this has been going on for the last five to seven years, but it’s become much more pronounced lately).
So, what else can buyers expect this March besides bigger shows, more companies and more competitive products? Better services, it seems. While the exhibitors are pitting themselves against their competitors, the fair organisers are working hard to make visitors feel as welcomed as possible.
This year, EFE Malaysia and IFEX Indonesia are offering complimentary airport shuttle services between the airport, official hotels and fairground, as well as VIP lounges with refreshments. IFFS takes it up a notch and provides complimentary hotel accommodation and flight reimbursement for a select group of buyers, as well as a premium prestige club service for established VIP buyers. CIFF Guangzhou, meanwhile, is issuing long-term VIP and Premium cards for fast entry and access to VIP lounges at all future CIFF events
The global economy has a huge impact on the furniture trade – let’s keep our fingers crossed that our industry remains resilient. I, for one, am optimistic that those visiting Asia this March will have a fruitful time.
Dr Casey Loo is the vice-chairman of the International Alliance of Furnishing Publications (IAFP), an association comprising the leading furniture magazines in 18 countries worldwide. He is also the publisher and editor-in-chief of Furniture & Furnishing Export International magazine, the founder of the Furniture Leadership Awards (FLA) and an adviser to the Council of Asia Pacific Furniture Association (CAFA).