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    Furniture and Living Expo organised DETAY
    Furniture and Living Expo organised

    ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ICCI) in collaboration with RF Events (SMC-Private)... ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ICCI) in collaboration with RF Events (SMC-Private) Limited, has organized a 3-day “Furniture and Living Expo” starting from February 19, 2021 at Majestic Banquets, Club Road, Islamabad from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm. A wide variety of furniture and interior products of the region are being offered in the Expo at discounted prices to the consumers. The Expo will continue up to February 21, 2021. Sardar Yasir Ilyas Khan, President, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry inaugurated the Furniture Expo as Chief Guest. Speaking at the occasion, Sardar Yasir Ilyas Khan President ICCI said that the global furniture market was estimated at over USD 500 billion, but Pakistan’s share in it was quite nominal. He urged that the government should provide support to furniture manufacturers and exporters in organizing exhibitions in foreign countries to promote Pakistan’s exports in the international market. He said that Pakistani foreign missions should also explore the potential of Pakistani furniture products in their respective countries and share such information with chambers of commerce. He said that government help was needed to introduce high-tech machinery and establish more training centres to produce more skilled workers for the furniture industry that would accelerate the growth of this important sector. Sardar Yasir Ilyas Khan asked the federal and provincial governments to allocate land for setting up furniture cities in metropolitans of the country that would give a boost to this sector and enhance its exports. He further emphasized that the government should abolish the registration of furniture shopkeepers, showrooms and workshops in Tier-1 retailers in the next budget as the criteria defined in Sec-2, Sub-Sec-43A of Sales Tax Act 1990 should not be applicable on these businesses due to the large size of their products. He assured that ICCI would fully cooperate in resolving the key issues of furniture businesses so that they could play a more effective role in promoting exports.—PR

    Timber exports ly to hit RM23 billion this year, says minister DETAY
    Timber exports ly to hit RM23 billion this year, says minister

    KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s exports of timber and timber products can reach RM23 billion this year, following the arrival of Covid-19 vaccines, primary industries minister Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali said today. He said the ministry, through the Malaysia Timber Industry Board and Malaysian Timber Council, would strive to ensure the local wood-based industry will remain competitive in both the domestic and global markets. “The ministry is confident the export performance is able to achieve RM23 billion in 2021 especially with the availability of vaccines which are expected to ease the Covid-19 transmission. “The economic recovery in major timber importing countries such as the United States and China as well as increasing demand from other countries would drive the wood industry to remain positive throughout 2021,” he said in a statement today. Mohd Khairuddin said the value of timber exports for 2020 had declined by only 2% to RM22.02 billion, compared with RM22.5 billion in 2019, a good achievement although the Covid-19 pandemic had not ended. “The performance reflected a positive recovery phase when compared with other industries which recorded huge contraction due to the challenges in raw material supply and market demand brought about by the impact of the pandemic. “Export value of timber products started to increase on a monthly basis from May to December 2020 which was during the recovery phase. Companies producing wood-based products particularly furniture, plywood, moulding, and joinery revived their operations to meet orders from the export market,” he said. According to him, the performance of high-value-added products such as furniture, joinery and moulding registered an 11% growth with export value of RM12.3 billion compared with RM11.1 billion in 2019. Out of this, wooden furniture remained as the major product with an export growth of 16% to RM10.6 billion from RM9 billion in 2019. However, wood joinery and moulding saw a decline of 6% and 21% to RM972 million and RM688 million against RM1 billion and RM872.1 million respectively in 2019. Meanwhile, export of sawn timber which is a key product recorded a decrease of 29% to RM2.4 billion from RM3.4 billion in the previous year. Besides that, export of plywood for 2020 fell 17% to RM2.8 billion compared with RM3.8 billion in 2019. This was because of the in export to Japan which is a major buyer of Malaysian plywood due to the contraction in the construction industry as well as competition from other producing countries such as Indonesia and China. “The major markets for timber products which recorded growth were the US and China. Both markets accounted for 44% of Malaysia’s total exports. “The US recorded an increase of 50% to RM7.4 billion compared with RM5 billion in 2019,” said Khairuddin. He added that the growth was influenced by the US government’s economic stimulus for the construction industry during the pandemic and growth in e-commerce which led to the increase in demand for Malaysia’s timber products. China, meanwhile, registered an increase of 23% to RM2.3 billion in 2020 against RM1.8 billion in 2019.

    Against the virus effective wood paint DETAY
    Against the virus effective wood paint

    Turkish academics developed a wood stain effective against the virus. Istanbul Technical University (ITU) Chemistry Department academic staff member Prof. Dr. Yusuf Yağcı and Mehmet Bilgehan Bilgiç, a graduate student at the Department of Polymer Science and Technology at ITU Graduate Education Institute, developed the world's first antiviral wood paint. Bilgiç's article, prepared with his consultant Yağcı, was published under the title "Permanent Hygiene on Wooden Surfaces". Thanks to the new technology inspired by Yağcı's antimicrobial studies in the past and developed by Kubilay Boya, viruses and bacteria are destroyed on wooden surfaces. EFFECTIVE PROTECTION ON TOUCH SURFACES The article emphasizes the role of the paint industry in the fight against COVID-19 and mentions that antiviral coatings stand out as a permanent, fast and reliable solution to prevent transmission by touching. Thanks to its antiviral feature, the new technology will play an important role in the fight against COVID-19.

    Meble Polska goes virtual for May show DETAY
    Meble Polska goes virtual for May show

    Concurrent Home Décor show also will run on digital platform POZNAN, Poland – Major eastern European furniture tradeshow Meble Polska, set for May 24-28, will now take place in a digital virtual format. The concurrent Home Décor expo also converted from an in-person to a virtual event. In November, the shows’ organizer, MTP Group, announced the 2021 events, originally scheduled for February, would postpone until May. As with many tradeshows, however, the ongoing pandemic led to the decision to convert to a virtual event. “As a result of the pandemic, holding the trade fair in the traditional formula is not possible this year,” said Meble Polska Director Józef Szyszka. “Therefore the MTP Group has prepared an native solution that will allow the representatives of the furniture and interiors business from all over the world to meet online and hold talks without the health risks related to direct contact and traveling.” The Meble Polska & Home Décor Online editions will be organized using an intuitive web platform relying upon artificial intelligence to match business partners. After registration, the application will recommend potential partners and save the arranged meetings in the calendar synchronized with Google and Outlook. Manufacturers who will present their offerings during the event will have an opportunity to reach new furniture buyers from all over the world as well as manage relations with existing customers. Meble Polska & Home Décor Online also will be an opportunity to broaden industry knowledge with a series of lectures and webinars on furniture importing from Poland. The latest trends in interior design can be followed during the live broadcast from Bloggers Zone. “MTP Group currently is finalizing adaptation of the tool to the specific needs resulting from the nature of the event,” Szyszka added. “Soon we will be able to present to the exhibitors details of the terms of participation.” More detailed information will be available soon at and  

    Interzum 2021 trade fair to be held as a digital-only event DETAY
    Interzum 2021 trade fair to be held as a digital-only event

    Furniture and interiors trade fair Interzum is to be held as a purely digital event for 2021 from May 4-7. A statement from organisers Koelnmesse said that the decision had been taken because of dramatic developments in the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, Koelnmesse said: “This step has not been an easy one for us to take, but we have done so to give you the planning certainty that we all need so urgently in these challenging times.” It added: “Our decision has been strengthened by the knowledge that, with Interzum @home, we can offer you a fully fledged trade fair experience that is highly advanced in every respect. Our exhibitors and visitors expect a digital global stage that redefines the state of the art in the sector.” Koelnmesse chief operating officer Oliver Frees said of the development: “Our exhibitors now need planning security. Due to the ongoing dynamic development of the pandemic, we decided, in close coordination with the industry, to carry out Interzum purely digitally. We deliberately designed the trade fair in such a way that we can switch from hybrid to digital at any time. “With our digital solution, Interzum @home, we offer suppliers to the furniture industry and interior design a highly attractive platform to present their innovations on a digital world stage that can certainly be counted among the state of the art.” Dr Andreas Hettich, chairman of the Interzum advisory board, explained that the Interzum @home will provide a digital platform to present products and innovations to a wide audience so as to achieve maximum reach. He added that Hettich, Blum, Häfele and Vauth-Sagel were the first companies to announce that they would be presenting on the platform. He added: “Interzum @home offers companies the infrastructure and event character they need to monitor current trends and define fundamental structural changes in the industry and society. Above all, however, it is the right place to generate the business of tomorrow and develop it for the day after tomorrow – in line with the guiding principle of Interzum: Creating tomorrow’s living spaces together.” And as networking is a vital part of any trade fair, the organisers have catered for that need with the creation of the visual Discovery Graph as well as exhibitor showrooms, round tables, workshops and virtual cafés. As Interzum director Maik Fischer explained: “Interzum @home lives very much from and for networking. Exhibitors and visitors have the opportunity to find exactly the right person for their personal business among all participants. Using the visual Discovery Graph, relevant contacts and companies can be found easily interactively – either via the networks, personal contacts or by matching with the specified interests.” Fischer continued: “Another feature will be the digital exhibitor showroom, round tables and virtual cafés, offering a wide range of options for presenting products and solutions, as well as knowledge and trends. In this way, even in times of the corona pandemic, Interzum reaches a global audience and thus decision-makers and opinion-makers on all continents of the world.”

    Venice Biennale Forges Ahead With In-Person Attendance DETAY
    Venice Biennale Forges Ahead With In-Person Attendance

    As new coronavirus variants emerge and mass-vaccination efforts roll out more slowly than anticipated, the organizers of design and architecture festivals and product trade shows have engaged in a new round of event postponements that feel like 2020 all over again. After canceling the Salone del Mobile last year, Milan’s famous furniture fair announced last November that it would shift its 2021 edition from April to early September. In January, Art Basel pushed back its Swiss flagship event from its traditional June slot to September, citing the “many uncertainties” of planning during the pandemic; the brand’s Swiss and Miami Beach art fairs were also canceled entirely in 2020. Bucking the trend, the Venice Biennale has stuck to its springtime schedule, with the architecture edition of the international exhibition set to open for in-person attendance on May 22, 2021 after postponing last May to September and then cancelling altogether. “La Biennale di Venezia recently confirmed that the 17th International Exhibition of Architecture will open this May, as scheduled,” U.S. Pavilion co-curators Paul Andersen and Paul Preissner corroborated in a statement. “We continue to work with our team at [University of Illinois at Chicago] and La Biennale di Venezia to ensure that our exhibition for the U.S. Pavilion will be ready to safely open this May.” American Framing, the exhibition overseen by Andersen and Preissner, will incorporate numerous safety precautions. Before visitors even arrive at the Castello Gardens in Venice, they will have purchased show tickets (with tracing access) via an online portal. They will undergo temperature checks at the entrance to the U.S. Pavilion, and follow a one-way path through the Palladian-style building that will also include social-distancing cues and hand-sanitization stations. Mask wearing will be mandatory both indoors and out, while specific limitations for building capacity have not yet been set. Even without those limitations in place, warm-weather attendance may be sparse. As of mid-February, only 2 percent of Italian citizens were fully vaccinated, and active statements from both the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control were advising tourists to avoid or defer travel to Italy. Planning of American Framing has taken virtual audiences into consideration. “Documentation of the U.S. Pavilion will be available through its forthcoming catalog, as well as on its website and Instagram,” a spokesperson told RECORD via email. Compared to the Biennale, organizers of other upcoming architecture events are treating public-health conditions more delicately. The AIA Conference on Architecture, which was originally scheduled to take place in Philadelphia in June, has since transitioned to an all-digital format. For its Design Days taking place in mid-May, NYCxDESIGN is focusing primarily on virtual gatherings.

    Education Ministry to make arrangements for school furniture DETAY
    Education Ministry to make arrangements for school furniture

    The Education Ministry will work with the Divisional Education Office in the North and Heads of Schools to assess the extent of damage to schools and obtain a list of students needing assistance with school stationery. Education Minister Rosy Akbar says the Ministry will make arrangements for school furniture as many desks and chairs have been damaged by the recent cyclones and flooding. Akbar adds they will continue to work towards the benefit of all Fijian students. Meanwhile, schools in the North will remain closed until further notice while schools in the Central, Eastern and Western Division will open tomorrow.

    Brazils wood-based product exports up 47 in December 2020 DETAY
    Brazils wood-based product exports up 47 in December 2020

    In December 2020 Brazilian exports of wood-based products (except pulp and paper) increased 47% in value compared to December 2019, from $222.3 million to $327.4 million, as ITTO reported. Pine sawnwood exports increased 53% in value, rising from $34.8 million in December 2019 to $53.2 million in December 2020. In volume terms exports increased 371% from 213,500 m3 to 292,800 m3. In a reversal of data for November tropical sawnwood exports in December increased 37% from 33,300 m3 in December 2019 to 45,700 m3 in December 2020. Exports earnings grew just over 8% from $15.4 million to $16.7 million. In December 2020 pine plywood exports continued the upward trend rising year-on-year 83% from $35.9 million to $65.7 million. In volume, exports increased 39% from 168,200 (Dec. 2019) m3 to 233,900 m3 (Dec. 2020). Tropical plywood exports continued down ping 13% in volume from 7,600 m3 ($2.7 million) in December 2019 to 6,600 m3 ($2.7 million) in December 2020. Wooden furniture exports rose once again in December 2020 from $43.9 million in December 2019 to $59.8 million in December 2020.

    Scientists develop transparent wood that is stronger and lighter than glass DETAY
    Scientists develop transparent wood that is stronger and lighter than glass

    Researchers at the University of Maryland have turned ordinary sheets of wood into transparent material that is nearly as clear as glass, but stronger and with better insulating properties. It could become an energy efficient building material in the future. Wood is made of two basic ingredients: cellulose, which are tiny fibres, and lignin, which bonds those fibres together to give it strength. Tear a paper towel in half and look closely along the edge. You will see the little cellulose fibres sticking up. Lignin is a glue-like material that bonds the fibres together, a little like the plastic resin in fibreglass or carbon fibre. The lignin also contains molecules called chromophores, which give the wood its brown colour and prevent light from passing through. Early attempts to make transparent wood involved removing the lignin, but this involved hazardous chemicals, high temperatures and a lot of time, making the product expensive and somewhat brittle. The new technique is so cheap and easy it could literally be done in a backyard. Starting with planks of wood a metre long and one millimetre thick, the scientists simply brushed on a solution of hydrogen peroxide using an ordinary paint brush. When left in the sun, or under a UV lamp for an hour or so, the peroxide bleached out the brown chromophores but left the lignin intact, so the wood turned white. Next, they infused the wood with a tough transparent epoxy designed for marine use, which filled in the spaces and pores in the wood and then hardened. This made the white wood transparent. You can see a similar effect by taking that same piece of paper towel, dip half of it in water and place it on a patterned surface. The white paper towel will become translucent with light passing through the water and cellulose fibres without being scattered by refraction. The epoxy in the wood does an even better job, allowing 90 per cent of visible light to pass through. The result is a long piece of what looks like glass, with the strength and flexibility of wood. As window material, it would be much more resistant to accidental breakage. The clear wood is lighter than glass, with better insulating properties, which is important because windows are a major source of heat loss in buildings. It also might take less energy to manufacture clear wood because there are no high temperatures involved. Transparent wood could become an native to glass in energy efficient buildings, or perhaps coverings for solar panels in harsh environments. There could be no end of uses. Many different types of wood, from balsa to oak, can be made transparent, and it doesn't matter if it is cut along the grain or against it. If the transparent wood is made a little thicker, it would be strong enough to become part of the structure of a building, so there could be entire transparent wooden walls. While this technology has yet to  be scaled up to industrial levels, the researchers say it has great potential as a new building material. In fact, they say that theoretically, an entire house could be made transparent. It is not clear why anyone would want to live in a transparent house, but for people who do, it would be OK to throw stones…

    Turkey is preparing to Europes largest furniture fair. DETAY
    Turkey is preparing to Europes largest furniture fair.

    The Istanbul Furniture Fair,  It will open its doors to visitors from all over the world with the participation of more than 3000 domestic and foreign brands in 23 halls separated by product groups in Tüyap fairground and Istanbul Expo Center exhibition centers.  Tüyap Tüm Fuarcılık Yapım A.Ş. - Mos Fuarcılık A.Ş. The countdown has begun for the Istanbul Furniture Fair, which will host its visitors on April 27-May 02, 2021 with the support of the cooperation and the Furniture Associations Federation (MOSFED). The Istanbul Furniture Fair, which is expected to be the most important event of the world furniture industry in April, will take place on the same day and dates in Tüyap fairground and Istanbul Expo Center exhibition centers in a total area of ​​260.000 m². Marketing and promotional activities continue at full speed to help participants establish new commercial connections with thousands of senior industry professionals from target geographies and from all over the world. The fair is expected to show a significant success with its high-level health measures and fair organizing understanding specific to the conditions that stand out with the new normal after the epidemic.

    TİKA Supports the Development of the Furniture Industry in Georgia DETAY
    TİKA Supports the Development of the Furniture Industry in Georgia

    Within the scope of the cooperation between TİKA and the School of Masters in Georgia, a furniture training workshop was put into service in the City of Masters Industrial Zone in Tbilisi, where there are approximately 170 small- and medium-scale furniture manufacturers. In the workshop, which is equipped with modern woodworking machinery and tools, it is aimed to train 800 people in furniture making in 3 years through short-term training programs. The training provided will contribute to the training of specialists and meeting their employment needs.   The project will also take the cooperation between the two countries to the next level in the fields of education and industry.   80 to 90% of the machinery and raw materials needed by the enterprises operating in the furniture industry in Georgia are supplied from Turkey.

    Forestry, timber sector allowed to operate DETAY
    Forestry, timber sector allowed to operate

    KUALA LUMPUR: The government’s decision to allow the forestry and timber sector, as well as its chains involving logging to operate as usual effective today, enables it to contribute to the country’s economic growth even during the Movement Control Order (MCO). Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali in a statement said it was a relief to the timber industry, especially the furniture sector nationwide which indirectly benefits flood victims to obtain supplies of furniture destroyed by the recent disaster.  “The furniture sector is estimated to use 85 per cent of local raw materials for furniture production.  “As the forestry and logging sector is under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Natural Resources Ministry through the Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia, the ministry would like to express its appreciation for the cooperation extended in obtaining permission to operate the sector,” he said. Mohd Khairuddin said it would ensure adequate supply of raw materials to the timber sector at the processing stage as well as the production of primary and downstream products. Meanwhile, he reminded all parties to comply with the standard operating procedures (SOP) set by the National Security Council (MKN) to prevent the operating permit from being revoked  “The industry needs to ensure that all the rules and regulations of the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities (Amendment) Act 2019 (Act 446) are met involving the provision of residential facilities for workers to prevent the spread of Covid-19.    “The ministry hopes that the timber sector can continue to contribute to the country’s economy even in the current difficult situation.   “The timber sector trade for the period January to November 2020 still showed good performance with an export value of RM19.8 billion despite the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

    New residential furniture orders slow, still up 17 for November DETAY
    New residential furniture orders slow, still up 17 for November

    HIGH POINT, N.C. -  Residential furniture manufacturers saw new orders rise a respectable 17% in November compared to 2019, following the large increases of 30% in June, 39% in July, 51% in August, 43% in September and 40% in October, according to January's Furniture Insights by Smith Leonard. The increase in new orders was reported by about three-quarters of the manufacturers and distributors participating in the monthly survey. Year to date, new orders remained up 14% over the first 11 months of 2019 after the significant declines as the pandemic took effect, according to the analyst and accounting firm. Year to date, some 66% of the participants reported increased orders. "The good results for new orders continued through November, though the increase in orders did slide somewhat," said Ken Smith, managing partner at Smith Leonard. "We had expected that slowdown in the increase based on conversations, so it was no surprise. We expect somewhat similar results in the December survey. That being said, the consensus with most folks we talk to is that we should continue this good ride on into 2021." Shipments increased 3% vs. last November, Smith Leonard reported. Year to date, shipments were 7% behind last year, down from 8% reported last month. "The flow of imported goods remains a problem." "Backlogs continued to grow in November to levels certainly not remembered in my years of following our statistics," Smith said in the January Furniture Insights. "We hear of some custom upholstery companies quoting as many as 20 weeks for delivery. We have heard that backlogs are slowly coming down, but that is a slow process due to lack of trained people as well as the issues discussed regarding flow on goods especially from Asia." Receivable levels rose 1% compared to November 2019, in line with shipment levels, the report noted. "Most we talk to have been able to keep the levels down since product is so hard to get," Smith noted. "If dealers are not paying, they are not getting shipped. And in the custom area, many dealers and designers are making deposits on orders to help faster shipments. Inventories were up 2% from October but still down 7% from last year.  "With orders coming in so fast, it is really hard to build inventories," Smith added. He noted case goods have been hard to come by for imported goods and there have also been some shortages of raw materials for upholstery suppliers. Sales at furniture and home furnishings stores were up 3.1% over December 2019. Despite the effects of the pandemic and the "disaster of March to May sales," sales at these stores were only down 5.4%, the report said. "One of the major concerns that we are hearing is that some dealers are starting to hear about cancellations due to the long lead times," Smith said. "On the good side, most of the economic data that we think drives furniture sales is still good. Consumer confidence picked back up a bit. Housing continues to be very strong in spite of the higher prices. Interest rates continue to be in a good place." Smith noted the uptick in the consumer price index, and with new rules on drilling, consumers are already seeing spikes in gas prices. "Still leisure travel remains down and spending on the fun things remains low. This continues to leave more money in consumers’ pockets and purchases for the home seems to be the place that many are spending their extra money on," he said. "The cost of furniture is going up whether for imports or for domestic materials. With demand this strong, we hope that at retail and wholesale, the industry does not give up margins just to chase sales. We realize the industry thrives on low prices in too many cases, but it makes no sense to try to enjoy all these increased sales at low margins. This is the time to make some margins back; not crazy but good solid margins which have eroded in the last number of years."    

    Blog: Whats next for mattress imports? DETAY
    Blog: Whats next for mattress imports?

    The pendulum swung back swiftly on imported mattresses as preliminary antidumping measures went into effect late last year — November to be exact — and the results show a dramatic in imported product. Mattress imports for the month of November had a 79-point swing from an increase of 33% or 1.3 million units, in October to a 46% decline in November. The antidumping duties pumped the brakes on imports from the seven countries targeted in a trade case filed in March. Those countries — Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam — saw a decline of 692,614 units from October to November.­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ According to data, the seven countries were responsible for 922,788 imported units in October. That figure ped to 230,174 in November. In a year of explosive sales in the home furnishings and mattress industry, due in part to COVID-19-induced spending on the home, the decline can very much be linked to the duties that range from a low of 2.61% for companies in Indonesia to a high of 989.9% for some companies in Vietnam. Turkey was the only one of the impacted countries to post a year-over-year increase of 19,561 units for the most recent month that figures are available. However, in a month-to-month comparison, Turkey’s number ped 56,753 units from 105,214 in October to 48,461 in November. November marks the first time in more than a year that mattress imports ped in YOY comparisons. While one month does not make a trend, the early results are in. The petitioners in the case filed their claim March 31 and included Brooklyn Bedding, Corsicana Mattress Co., Elite Comfort Solutions, FXI, Innocor, Kolcraft Enterprises and Leggett & Platt, as well as the Teamsters and Steelworkers labor s. Slightly more than a year ago, we were facing the same environment, only in China. U.S. tariffs coupled with antidumping duties on Chinese product, d a great shift in where retailers, distributors and manufacturers were securing mattresses. In July 2019, China held only 2% of the import mattress market following a sharp decline from 87% share in February of the same year. The one-two punch of tariffs and antidumping duties levied on China took a huge chunk out of that business in a relatively short period of time. Those actions led to increased imports from the countries cited in the latest round of duties, as the hunt for low-cost bedding ensued. Now that duties are having a significant impact on the seven secondary countries, the question remains: Where will companies turn for those low-cost mattresses? Which countries are on the horizon to fill the void for the promotional, low-end goods? I’m always amazed at how quickly this segment of the industry can shift. Built on the shoulders of entrepreneurs who dig deep to find creative solutions, the industry digs deep, and I’m certain the smartest of the smart will figure out the next frontier for low-cost production. Change is imminent in the category, and it’s coming quickly. Will China come back in a larger role? It’s hard to predict this early in the year. As always, I welcome your thoughts as the strategies start taking form.   Sheila Long O’Mara  

    [Weekender] Inside Koreas interior design boom amid pandemic DETAY
    [Weekender] Inside Koreas interior design boom amid pandemic

                                                                                         Photo caption 2: Home interior design and shopping app Ohouse (Bucketplace) From #OurHome #HomeDecorating to #OnlineHousewarming, Instagram lately is filled with hashtags and posts from users showcasing their homes and stylish interior design ideas. “May I know where you got the bookcase?” one comment read in response to a post showing a well-lit, nearly all-white room. Dambi, an author and blogger, who shared the original post on Instagram replied that it was from furniture company Basic Gagu. These types of interactions are fairly common in the online sphere nowadays amid the furniture shopping boom fueled by strict social distancing measures and coronavirus woes that have affected various sectors of the country’s economy for better or worse. Korea’s economy has been put to the test by the coronavirus crisis for a while now but the furniture industry has so far managed to not only stay afloat but prosper during over the course of the pandemic. Online sales of furniture between January and November last year reached 4.49 trillion won ($4 billion), a 42.4 percent year-on-year increase, according to the latest data from Statistics Korea. The increase in sales of items such as wardrobes, dressing tables and desks was far more significant than clothes and computers during the month of November. Lee Young-ae, a professor at the Department of Consumer Science at Incheon National University, explained that the recent interior design boom reflects not only the impact of the coronavirus pandemic but the country’s increased household incomes and leisure time, as well as the growing number of single-person households. “The obvious explanation is that we are spending a lot more time at home now,” Lee said. The pandemic is not the only factor that drove up furniture sales last year as online furniture shopping has been on the rise for the last four years, going from 2.6 trillion won in 2017 to 3.4 trillion win in 2019. “Though it does not equal to being ‘wealthy,’ the median income increase in the country has given many people an opportunity to pursue their interests in various fields. Leisure time has also increased, giving people more available time to pursue things [they enjoy,]” she said. Then the coronavirus pandemic came, which forced people to spend more time at home. “People had to a home office and make a separate living space. These tasks made us all more aware of interior design,” Lee explained. The number of single-person households has grown at a rapid rate in the country in recent years. People living alone accounted for over 30 percent of households in 2019, nearly a twofold jump from 2000. “Single-person households tend to be smaller places and the lack of space forces people to come up with ways to make their homes nice and efficient places to live, rather than unpleasant spaces,” Lee said. People sharing images of their stylish homes on social media platforms such as Instagram has also in part fueled the phenomenon, Lee explained, as it often prompts positive responses, which provide a form of compensation for people’s efforts, “creating a virtuous circle.” Increased interest in interior design has also given rise to new home interior services such as OHouse. The home interior information and shopping app attracted 77 billion won from investors, including technology investment firm Bond, in November. Kang Sung-joo, head of operations at the app’s operator, Bucketplace, said that the app’s appeal is the that makes users visit the app time and again. “Interior apps are often for short-term use, but Ohouse provides interior design information that can be useful in various situations and different seasons when change is necessary. We are providing the app as a service that can be part of someone’s life,” Kang told The Korea Herald. With around 9 million photos available, people can not only check out other people’s homes for inspiration through using different filters and keywords, but they can also buy the furniture on display then and there. “You can go straight to buying products without having to do additional research, which is our app’s big appeal,” he said. The app’s main user base consists of those living in single-person households and newly married couples aged between 25 and 35, but the number of older users is also growing, Kang added. The home decor boom has translated into a jump in the profits of established players as well. LG Hausys, a major manufacturer of building materials, saw its operating profit rise by 13 percent during the third quarter last year compared to the same time last year and 113 percent compared to the previous quarter. Furniture manufacturer and distributor Hanssem also saw sales jump by 25.4 percent and its operating profit by over 230 percent during the third quarter compared to the same time last year. Earlier this month, the company also launched a mattress subscription service on KakaoTalk for a monthly price of 9,900 won with plans to offer other types of furniture such as sofas and beds in the future. One Hanssem official said the move reflects the “growing contactless consumption trend.” The upward trend for Hanssem is predicted to have continued during the fourth quarter as a result of a growing interest in home interior design caused by the country’s housing market and the pandemic, according to a recent report by Yeol-mae Kim, an analyst at Eugene Investment & Securities Co. “While there is a growing interest in finding new homes, there is a shortage of new properties and the number of old homes is growing. With the government’s housing policy focused on one household owning one home and increasing occupancy rates, the home ownership rate is also expected to rise,” Kim said in the report. “With more time spent at home as a result of the coronavirus, kitchens and bathrooms that can be fit in within one week will sell well,” she added. As more people are working from home, multipurpose items are gaining popularity, according to Kang, Head of Operations at Bucketplace. “Home has become a place for a variety of activities ranging from studying, working, cooking, working out to even relaxing like you are at a café and naturally different items across the board are all enjoying a surge in popularity -- partitions and desks to a better home office environment or houseplants to add a breath of fresh air, for instance,” he said. Kang also noted people’s taste for dining tables has changed lately. “In the past, foldable or sitting tables that took less room used to be popular. But nowadays, dining tables that are suitable for doing various things such as eating, working and reading are in fashion.”