The Asian manufacturers are following Western trends in office design more rapidly. They are getting better in segments where they were weak, like ancillary and lounge furniture products, and they are entering segments where they were not present before. For the first time, Asian manufacturers showed privacy booths that are smartly designed and offered for a fraction of the price of brands like Framery. Though these early products need some refinement, they are sure to make their way into the North American market soon.
Asian manufacturers are diving more deeply into contract grade fabrics and much better mesh than found at CIFF in the past. Companies like Quama and Aikang Medical Furniture are not only making office furniture, but have added extensive lines of health care furniture.
And if you think these Asian manufacturers are content with serving their own domestic markets, think again. In an interview with Business of Furniture, Sunon founder Liangzheng Ni said his company is ready to go public and will use the proceeds to acquire office furniture makers both domestically and in North America and Europe. Sunon said his five-year plan is to grow sales to $1.5 billion. In 2019, sales at Sunon are expected to grow by 50 percent “at a minimum,” according to Ni. Sales in 2018 were up 22 percent, even though he said the company lost 1 percent to 2 percent of sales because of the U.S. tariffs. Sunon has an office in Miami and plans to increase staff in the U.S.
It was clear at the show that Western brands are seeing the value of the Asian market. Swedish space planning software maker Configura, which counts Sunon and Novah as customers in China, had its own booth at CIFF for the first time. European height-adjustable furniture component suppliers like LINAK and OMT Veyhl also were showing at the event.