AMID the global economic challenges that are hurting export sales, demand for custom-made furniture products is now becoming a big business locally, especially in Cebu.

Pedro Delantar, a trustee of Chamber of Furniture Industries in the Philippines (CFIP), said the booming real estate and tourism industries opened opportunities for furniture makers to thrive locally while coping with the issues in the global market.

“Market preference has changed over the years,” said Delantar, who owns Nature’s Legacy Eximport Inc. “There is now a growing demand for customization.”

Delantar noted that the future of the industry looks brighter amid the global challenges as real estate and tourism on Philippine shores show no signs of stopping.

According to Delantar, his company noted an average of 15 percent growth of customized furnishings from institutional clients like hotels, condominiums, offices and restaurants that want to have a distinct look in their respective properties.

Delantar said gone are the days when buyers just picked available furniture designs. Now, they are challenging furniture companies to become more creative and at the same time more flexible.

“They now want to have personal touches in everything,” he said. Delantar added that social media has played a critical role in making buyers demand more from producers.

Delantar’s full-scale showroom on Area 77, P. Remedio St., Mandaue City, specifically wants to cater to this particular segment of the market.

“Customers want to pay a premium to stand out and be different,” he said.

Aside from showcasing its sustainable products made from four core materials called the stonecast, marmorcast, naturecast and nucast, Delantar said, he wanted buyers to take a look at the products born out of the creativity and ingenuity of the Cebuanos.

Global forecast

Moreover, local furniture manufacturers are looking to expand their businesses to new markets overseas, particularly in Southeast Asia, while tapping the strong local demand.

“The forecast globally is that in the next 10 to 15 years, Asia would be the fastest-growing region, so we really shouldn’t look too far,” said Nicolaas de Lange, chairman of the board of the CFIP.

As the Philippines chairs the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Furniture Industries Council for 2019 to 2020, de Lange said the country can take advantage of its position to enable local furniture makers to explore markets within the region.

“Traditionally, we want to sell to the United States. We want to sell to Europe. But if the fastest-growing region is our own region, then we really should be studying our region a little better and try to focus on it a little more,” he said.

To meet buyers’ needs, de Lange noted it is imperative to improve the product development process.

“Our product development process is very general, a little scattered. We just design what we think looks nice, what we think is in trend, but we don’t really design with the specific market in mind,” he said. (KOC)