PORTO, Portugal — In a quaint coastal city where affordable housing, five-star dining options and magazine-worthy vistas are prevalent, thousands of international home furnishings buyers and sellers have formed new supply relationships on last month during the 2n/a edition of Portugal Home Week (PHW).
Although smaller than other similar furniture market events around the world, the attendees and products of this quintessentially Portuguese show addressed several challenges that could have a significant impact on the industry during the next decade, as well as notable and adaptable processes and solutions.
Growing Portuguese sourcing
According to officials from the Portuguese Association of Furniture and Related Industries (APIMA), participants in Portugal Home Week came from more than 40 countries, including the United States, Canada, France, Spain, the Kingdom United States, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Morocco, Greece, and the Nordic countries, among others. Highlighting the return to normal business activity across Europe, this international buyer contingency also highlighted the growing interest in Portuguese furniture, bedding and décor.
“Two years after the first edition (in 2019), Portugal Home Week is back, discussing the trends and challenges facing the sector, but above all, showing international customers the quality and excellence of what is created and product in the home sector in Portugal,” said João Dias, Member of the AICEP Board of Directors. “Our companies manage to combine talent, design, architecture and art with R&D, technology and innovation in a remarkable way. We have some of the best companies in the world in this sector.
APIMA officials indicated that France is currently the main importer of Portuguese products with a quota of almost 35%, followed by Spain, the United States with an annual variation of more than 30%, Germany (10%) and the United Kingdom (19%).
João Neves, Secretary of State for Economy, described the transformation that has taken place in the Portuguese furniture sector over the last decade during the opening session.
“It is an essential transformation in a sector that was often considered traditional, but which knew how to reinvent itself, based on the quality of its products, the incorporation of knowledge in them and a refined design,” said Neves. “The visit to the show is not only to this event, but also to the first-hand knowledge that the industrial facilities can provide, to understand that not only the products are manufactured with a good presentation, but also with the industrial conditions which reflect this same appropriation of skills and knowledge.
Portuguese furniture, home textiles and household goods manufacturers present at Portugal Home Week included AMR, AM Living, ACL, Salma, Sofalca, More Contract, Magyk, Colunex, Ducampos, Luís Silva, Fenabel, Wewood, Riluc , Pacheco’s, Damaceno, Classiribalta, Epoca, MAB, Insidherland, Dom Kapa, Paulo Antunes, Oia Design, Las Kasas, Frato, Cobermaster, Woodtale, AMS, A. Brito, Sofá Design, Duistt, S. Bernardo, Mooza, SERIP, Colmol, Aldeco, Glammfire, Suffa, Freixotel, Emotional Brands, Casa Magna, Belo Inox, Pombo, Serop, Spal, HMD, Flam&Luce, Azemad and Gansk. Although many are not common US manufacturing names, several companies noted that they already have US partnerships while others are developing US strategies, and the statement aligns with national statistics.
“The United States is a very large market, with many opportunities for Portuguese companies,” said Gualter Morgado, executive director of APIMA. “I believe the United States is still beginning to discover the potential of Portuguese businesses and products as Portugal becomes a more well-known destination. There is clearly more openness and interest in knowing what we do and how we do it.
“The main asset of our production is the incredible balance we have found between incredible quality, where we have an undisputed history and tradition, with contemporary and luxurious designs, provided by a new generation of designers, able to put in value the best of Portuguese tradition and the history of their businesses in a new and fresh way,” continued Morgado. “We are a country with an eye on the Atlantic Ocean and discoverers at heart. boldness and this desire to go further, and our products reflect the stories we collect and extract from these journeys.
According to Morgado, Portuguese exports of furniture, bedding, seats and other complementary activities increased by 6% in the first quarter of the year, compared to 2021, reaching almost 500 million euros. He added that the sector recorded a “constant increase in monthly values, with 155 million euros in January, 160 million euros in February and 169 million euros in March, and a positive performance in nine of its ten main markets, compared to 2020”.
In addition to the fair, hundreds of Portugal Home Week attendees attended one or more of the 16 seminars with 58 international attendees. Several seminars focused on sustainability and the materials and processes available to furniture manufacturers making the transition to environmentally friendly production.
“The current generation that leads the companies of Portuguese Home Row Industries is very sensitive to the issue of sustainability, both social, like their predecessors, but also environmental, since the climate crisis continues to grow and has an impact of more more visible in their time. and in the future of their children,” Morgado said. “There is a real and progressive effort to transform these industries into more environmentally friendly circular manufacturers through the use of more sustainable, locally sourced raw materials, waste reduction strategies, as well as the consumption of water and energy, and the reuse of -products to generate new products, among many others.Investment in R&D plays an important role in the discovery and implementation of more efficient means of production and sustainable, and these companies have been exemplary in this regard.
In the “Sustainable construction” panel, Jose Martos, CEO of Saint-Gobain Portugal, highlighted the urgent importance of decarbonizing the construction industry and adopting sustainable construction practices, including lightweight construction or reducing energy consumption by improving the energy efficiency of homes.
Martos highlighted the current energy crisis as a strong example of the urgent need to implement these changes, a view shared by Mario Ortega, Executive Director of BIMobject, who highlighted the pressure that exists in the construction sector to respond to population growth, and the urgency of building differently, using digitalization as a factor of efficiency and sustainability.
Morgado added that many Portuguese companies produce “high quality pieces that are likely to last a lifetime”, stressing the importance of consumer behavior on sustainability.
“Fortunately, sustainable practices are no longer the exception, they are becoming the norm, as consumers are increasingly aware of the impact the way they consume in the world they inhabit, motivating businesses to change and thereby creating a cycle of positive change,” he said. “There is urgency in change, and sustainability is no longer an option, but the only way out for us, as a collective, to survive and thrive in this world.”
Several seminars focused on the potential growth of the Portuguese furniture industry in the United States as well as some of the inherent challenges. Isabel Cristina Torres, CEO of Mambo Factory, described her company’s work history in the United States, noting the complex navigation of required product certification. Miguel Paiva, designer of lighting company Serip, joined Torres on stage to discuss his company’s US strategies, alongside Ingrid Abramovich of Elle Decor and Jodie Ellis of Style Row, who respectively presented the trends design trends in the United States and e-commerce opportunities.
Noting that the United States is considered a “traditional” furniture market as far as design is concerned by many international companies, Abramovich countered the hypothesis with several examples of recent design projects in New York, including a building in ‘pre-WWII brownstone in Brooklyn and a house in the Hamptons.
“We love European furniture,” she said. “Furniture from Portugal can certainly play in our market.”
Ellis agreed, adding that the cost of entering a new market can be prohibitive for many businesses, but can also be mitigated through platforms like Style Row.
“To enter a new market, brands can expect to spend at least $150,000 to $250,000 in the first year,” he explained. “Style Row is an industry-ready software and product that brings brands to designers’ desks.”
Ellis added that Style Row currently works with 60,000 design professionals and 34 design firms. He noted that the company is working on an integrated payment system for its customers and also provides real-time analytics.
“We can see when a designer looks at a product, for how long, and which products drive people to a digital showroom,” Ellis explained. “Our customers have an online presence, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.”
Made in Portugal commitment
Joaquim Carneiro, president of APIMA, said efforts to promote the growth of Portuguese furniture exports will continue.
“We are extremely proud to bring an event of this impact and dimension to Portugal,” said Carneiro. “We understand, from the number of visitors and their enthusiasm, that MADE IN PORTUGAL deserves more and more recognition and demand at an international level, motivating buyers and specifiers from dozens of markets, from the most traditional to the most emerging. , coming this trade fair.