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Freeman Cebu Business

Furniture exporters hope to bounce back next year

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Although its membership had been shrinking for the past few years due to the uncertain recovery of the global furniture market, Cebu manufacturers are still keeping their fingers crossed hoping for a turnaround next year.

Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation Inc., president Robert A. Booth, whose family owns Mehitabel Inc., one of Cebu’s largest furniture exporting companies, said the industry is keeping its hopes up to hit a five to seven percent growth by the end of this year.

Booth said the improving economy in the United States is giving them more strength to hold on and anticipate for turn-around soon enough.

Once the current tight credit condition shows improvements, the furniture sector is expected to gain its muscle again as the housing market including purchases in home furnishing is closely dependent on credit availability in the United States.

Amid call to diversify and tap emerging markets while the US economy is still on its weak side, Booth said most furniture exporters are still sticking in, as it is the market "we are comfortable with."

Booth said that aside from tight credit, bad economic condition, the furniture sector is also hit by the evolving lifestyle of the current generation, wherein keeping up with the latest gadgets is top priority over furniture or home furnishing.

Unlike in the past, today's generation is largely minimalist and technology comes first over furniture, he said.

However, although the expectation now for growth is also downgraded due to changing market preferences, Booth said there is always a market for furniture, dismissing the impression that it is already becoming a "sunset industry."

Volume of orders may be slimmer now, compared to its "heyday", however, he said when the season of furniture comes back, it would be worth all the wait.

"Furniture is like fashion. Demand will surely come back," he said admitting that volume of demand though will not be as comparable as before.

CFIF membership went down from 150 companies to 75 companies. Surviving companies like Mehitabel Inc, also downsized its manpower to 350 people and one factory, from two factories of 1,500 manpower in 2008.

He said furniture export will continue to thrive albeit in a smaller-scale this time. — Ehda M. Dagooc (FREEMAN)

BOOTH

CEBU

CEBU FURNITURE INDUSTRIES FOUNDATION INC

DAGOOC

EHDA M

FURNITURE

MARKET

MEHITABEL INC

ROBERT A

UNITED STATES

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