Rivals at home, Turkish furniture giants join hands for exports

In an unusual move, seven prominent Turkish furniture manufacturers have kept their domestic rivalry aside and have joined hands to establish a strategic platform, seeking to combine their experience and act toward a common goal in the international arena.

Adore, Çilek, Doğtaş-Kelebek, which recently rebranded itself as Doğanlar Mobilya Group, Gündoğdu, Işbir, Kilim and Nurus have come together under an umbrella organization, the f-tr Furniture Partners, with a joint 305-yearslong experience.

Set up within the framework of a sustainable export strategy document, the platform aims to help boost industry exports and increase the share of the Turkish furniture sector in the global trade, Muzaffer Çilek, chairperson of the f-tr Furniture Partners board and head of Çilek, told Daily Sabah.

The founders of the joint venture have established the platform with a common aim in light of their positive and negative experiences.

“Strength arises from unity. There will, of course, be competition at home, but when it comes to exports, not a single company but one sector will provide serious advantages,” said Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM) Ismail Gülle, addressing the event to announce the partnership in late October.

“We created a brand-new platform that aims to increase the share of the Turkish furniture industry in the world trade. In light of negative and positive experiences of the founders and managers of the joining brands, we have prepared a sustainable export strategy document with a common mind, and we carry out our activities within this framework,” Çilek said.

The local furniture industry has gained great momentum in the last 20 years and perception of “Turkish Furniture” in the international arena has gained strength beyond expectations, he suggested.

“Today, our industry, which has made a name for itself under this perception in dozens of countries with its quality, design and competitive prices, has become the eighth largest exporter in the world,” Çilek said, while the new growth target of the sector is to be in the top five.

“For this, we establish unconventional strategies. We learn and analyze what can be sold in target countries. Instead of trying to sell the products we produce, we plan to produce products that we can sell in particular markets. We believe in the importance of developing different and new business ideas and projects among our partners, especially in manufacturing products with high added value,” Çilek said.

Buoyant exports

The buoyant industry managed to maintain its strong export performance last year, overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions, which confined people to their homes.

The furniture exports totaled $3.5 billion in 2020, unchanged from the previous year, bucking the challenges of the outbreak, which also triggered major disruptions in the supply chains and global trade.

Last year’s figures made Turkey the eighth-largest furniture exporter in the world, close on the heels of the United States with $4.7 billion (TL 62.4 billion) and Canada at $3.7 billion.

Iraq, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Israel, France, Libya, the United Kingdom, Romania and the Netherlands constitute the list of the furniture industry’s main export markets.

This year marked a breakthrough as furniture exports had exceeded $3 billion in the first nine months of 2021 for the first time ever, before nearing $4 billion through the end of November.

Foreign sales surged nearly 25% year-over-year from January through November to $3.86 billion, according to Istanbul Furniture, Paper and Forestry Products Exporters’ Association.

Overall annual sales are expected to cross well into the $4 billion zone, compared to the global volume of around $200 billion.

Preparing themselves for the competition abroad, Çilek said they will also continue to work competitively in the domestic market.

“We established f-tr Furniture Partners as a profit-oriented joint-stock company with a capital of TL 10 million ($746,814). Our goal is to become a sustainable supplier for countries that are the world’s largest furniture importers and where we did not have a strong presence as Turkey before,” Çilek said.

The joint establishment brings together a production-warehouse area of 750,000 square meters (8,072,932 square feet). The total revenue of the seven brands stands at around $530 million, around 20% consists of export revenues. The companies together employ more than 6,400 people.

Speaking of the f-tr Furniture Partners’ export plans for the near future, Çilek said the main target is to be in countries that they have previously had difficulties in entering.

Described as large-scale furniture importers by Çilek, these include the U.S., Germany, the U.K. and France.

In addition to research and development (R&D) studies and market research, Çilek said, they will study the market to understand the cultures, preferences and consumer habits of these countries, while maintaining their consultancy, marketing and communication activities.

Once the target markets are selected, planning and manufacturing will be carried out, according to different preferences and needs.

The f-tr Furniture Partners will also engage in activities such as joint logistics and after-sales services. The platform is also planning to provide consultancy support to other Turkish companies as well.

“We believe that with the large-scale production capacity and synergy that f-tr Furniture Partners will create, we will reach big consumers that the local sector has not reached before, and we will contribute significantly to the furniture exports,” Çilek stressed, underlining that the furniture makers “aim to utilize all opportunities to stand out in the world competition.”


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