Furniture firms urged to rebuild industry

Consumer confidence in sector takes hit after recent controversy

SHANGHAI – China’s furniture industry is facing a credibility crisis with consumers following a country-of-origin controversy and experts say self-discipline is the best way to rebuild the sector’s reputation.

Industry insiders said domestic furniture seller Da Vinci Furniture’s country-of-origin controversy has created difficulties for domestic and international top-end furniture retailers alike, because many Chinese consumers no longer trust the retailers.

“Almost all new orders were cancelled or postponed after the Da Vinci controversy was reported,” said Zhou Yufeng, China managing director of the France-based luxury furniture manufacturer and retailer Roche Bobois (RB) Group.

“Only those consumers who really understand our brand and intrinsic value continue buying our products.”

Zhou did not reveal the exact number of orders that were affected by this incident. “The industry is experiencing a credibility crisis and we are seriously affected by this controversy,” added Zhou. RB operates five stores in China.

RB is not the only furniture firm to suffer. Xinjiang-based Markor Furnishings, which is one of the largest luxury furniture retailers in China, also had some orders postponed.

“Some customers called us to confirm the place of origin, while others said they will delay their orders to see what will happen next,” said Mao Yawen, deputy manager of a Markor Funishings store in South Xizang Road in Shanghai.

With the Da Vinci case in mind, furniture retailers in China are becoming more careful about what they tell consumers regarding the origin of their products.

“We have told our sales personnel to state clearly to customers where the furniture was produced, so as to avoid confusion,” said Mao.

In an effort to reduce the effect of the controversy, RB China held a press conference on Tuesday to state that all the RB products are made in Europe.

Zhou emphasized that all the furniture being sold is Roche Bobois-branded, and no other brands have been sold in RB stores.

“We have zero tolerance toward any type of violation, including the use of fake materials and false labels of origin,” said Zhou.

The China National Furniture Association (CNFA) issued a statement on July 15 telling all furniture makers to tighten up internal controls and improve their credibility to rebuild the sector’s reputation.

Zhu Changling, the director-general of the CNFA, was quoted in media reports as saying that the Da Vinci controversy was an isolated case and did not reflect the situation of the whole industry.

He said government regulators might need to establish a monitoring system to keep fake products out of retail channels.

The Beijing Evening News reported that Chinese administration departments have never conducted quality inspections of Da Vinci’s products since the company entered the market in 1998.

As China becomes a manufacturing base for foreign companies, it is common for some foreign-branded products to be produced in China. Experts said it is a must for retailers to state clearly the place of origin.

However, consumers are also advised that not all imported goods are better than those produced in China, and they should make their purchasing decisions based on genuine need.

Li Xinzhu contributed to this story.

Source: China Daily

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