By Rojan Sthapit

The furniture industry is an ever growing industry. The prospective customer base is the entire population, thus the industry is constantly changing and expanding. With the world population growing each year, the demand for housing is also on the rise. It is estimated that the population growth rate in 2017 is 1.11%, which is down slightly from 1.13% in 2016. However, the overall growth in both population and housing needs means the requirement for furniture should also increase, especially in the urban areas where buildings and offices are expanding.

The furniture industry is one of those industries which never seem to run out of ideas. There is always some new trend in styles of furniture that keeps customers coming back for new pieces. Nowadays, with minimalistic and easily replaceable furniture available, it has become more convenient for customers to change their existing furniture with new pieces. New innovations in technology and changes in living styles have changed the furniture industry drastically – from the production process of making new furniture to the way old furniture is disposed or reused.

Changing Scenario in Nepal

If we look at the Nepali furniture industry, it has grown and developed drastically compared to what it was in the past few decades. I am closely related to the furniture industry as my father owns a furniture manufacturing company. So, I have firsthand knowledge of the changes that the industry has seen over the years. Previously, all furniture had to be made fully by hand. But today, technology has changed that. Different electronic tools are used for different production processes which has made the work of human labor easier. Before, the entire manufacturing process, including all the heavy lifting, sawing, coloring, and drilling had to be done by a laborer. Now the amount of physical labor required has somewhat been decreased thanks to new electronic tools. The designs and styles have seen a drastic change. People are no longer satisfied with old simple, bulky style designs. They are more attracted towards stylish, functional, and cost-effective.

Even though there have been many technological advancements in the furniture industry, Nepali industries have not been quite able to accomplish what foreign brands have done. Due to this fact, demand for foreign brands has increased compared to that of Nepali brands. Foreign brands have been able to provide furniture of different varieties and designs at different price points which is something Nepali furniture providers are working towards.

According to an article by the Nepal Furniture and Furnishing Association, the growth of foreign furniture brands was about 20% last year. Foreign brands cover about 60% of the market in Nepal, according to Kavindra Joshi, President of the association.

If we look at the US, the technological advancements in the furniture industry have been far greater and superior compared to Nepal, from the way the furniture is designed to the entire process of manufacturing it. It is nearly all completed by robots. The only human labor required is to operate and oversee the machines used in the production process. The design and the functionality of the furniture have also been profoundly affected by new innovations and tools currently available. Most of the modern furniture are ready-to-assemble furniture, which are more portable for the customers as well as more convenient for them to assemble and disassemble themselves whenever they require. They also use different materials such as wood, plastics, and leather according to the demands of the customers.

Furniture Today anticipates the sector will grow at a 2.9% annual rate through 2019. According to eMarketer, online sales of furniture will reach $32 billion by 2018, growing at an annual rate of 11% and continuing to gouge into brick-and-mortar sales.

Big named brands like Ashley Furniture, IKEA, and Raymour & Flanigan appeal to varying demographics, and one can find a wide range of stores that cater to specific styles or price points. And unsurprisingly, many of the most successful retailers in the US are those that sell furniture at relatively low prices.

So, When we look at the current state of the industry, we can say that the furniture industry is not going anywhere for now, at least not until there is a breakthrough in alternatives to the furniture. But we will continue to see evolution in furniture as culture, fashion, and lifestyles change.