New strategy seeks to boost Singapore’s competitiveness and long-term sustainability in the furniture industry

With the intention of kicking off 2018 with a bang, the Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC) recently unveiled its 2021 Furniture Industry Roadmap which outlines strategic directions for the sector’s competitiveness and long-term growth, launched by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information at the opening of Singapore Design Week and SingaPlural 2018.

The outlook for the global furniture industry is promising, with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of close to five per cent over the coming three years. The growth will be driven by the burgeoning Asian middle class, with Asian economies set to account for 50 per cent of global GDP growth by 2025.

With Singapore’s stature as a UNESCO Creative City of Design as well as its international cosmopolitan urban landscape, the local furniture industry is uniquely positioned to capture the growing demand for urban living solutions, especially in Asia. This requires moving in lifestyle, creating compelling customer-centric brands and solutions, and inclusive collaborations within and beyond the industry.

The 2021 industry roadmap thus aims to propel growth and drive greater competitiveness for the Singapore furniture industry under a new vision to be “The Asian hub influencing tomorrow’s urban living.”

The industry roadmap will incorporate three fundamental pillars and outline key initiatives to support Singaporean furniture companies in new growth trajectories:

  • Growth Asia – Strengthening the sector’s presence in Asia by helping local companies expand beyond Singapore
  • Urbanite Centricity – Expanding the role of design beyond aesthetics to enable the creation of customer-centric, urban living solutions
  • Business Agility – Promoting business agility to continuously enhance talent and skill-sets to exploit market opportunities by rapidly testing, launching, and iterating tomorrow’s urban living solutions

The new roadmap seeks to transform the industry by encouraging local companies to adopt new business models that leverage on technology, innovation, and design to broaden their knowledge, skill-sets, and value chains instead of relying on traditional business concepts and supply chains.

Under the Roadmap’s first “Growth Asia” pillar, the SFIC intends to launch the ‘Living Lab’ initiative in Singapore by 2019. This initiative will comprise of a curation of diverse products and solutions from across the furniture industry and its value chain to facilitate trade and collaborations amongst relevant partners. SFIC also plans to replicate this concept globally, through overseas platforms and exhibitions and other supporting activities.

“The Living Lab has the potential to transform the industry by improving the way we create new designs and better products,” Mr Joshua Koh, CEO of Commune Lifestyle Pte Ltd, said. “New capabilities and skill-sets will be required, which will also help local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) innovate and test-bed new ideas. This will enable and facilitate their market expansion into new verticals and new geographies, especially in Asia where urbanites are increasingly affluent and discerning in their lifestyle choices.”

Moreover, SFIC is also working towards a Digital Insights Programme in order to help local companies embrace the digital wave to sharpen their competitiveness and expand their markets. The programme will include learning journeys and seminars by experts in the fields of big data, analytics, and data visualisation. These will equip local SMEs with the needed knowledge and tools in collating relevant customer data, visualising, and assessing consumer and industry trends, as well as translating this critical information into products, solutions, and experiences for both current and future customers.

“The global furniture industry is expected to grow from S$631 billion in 2017 to S$766 billion in 2021, with the highest growth coming from Asia,” President of SFIC, Mr Mark Yong, added. “Modern consumers are increasingly seeking individualised experiences and have higher expectations from brands. This requires developing bespoke propositions that appeal to distinct consumer groups, such as the urban middle class and the ‘urban slivers’.”

Commissioned by the SFIC, with funding support from the DesignSingapore Council (DSG), a part of Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information, the 2021 Furniture Industry roadmap is the result of an intense six-month journey that started in August 2017. The in-depth deliberation involved SFIC’s key Executive Committee members and secretariat, furniture and furniture-related industry players, partners across diverse clusters including urban planners, architects, design and business community, as well as agencies such as the DSG, International Enterprise Singapore, and SPRING Singapore.

“The role of the Council is to work in partnership with our design associations to help the industry be ready for the future,” Ms Agnes Kwek, Executive Director of the DSG, stated. “This means understanding the key drivers affecting the industry today, seeing around the corner how we will be affected, and identifying opportunities for growth.”