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TRADITION COMBINES WITH MODERNITY IN THE CHAIR DISTRICT
Tradition and expertise combined with modernity and the ability to keep up with the times: these are the factors which characterise the chair district, situated in Friuli Venezia Giulia in north-east Italy.
On the one hand, this district has a history which goes back more than a century, and on the other, the companies involved have never neglected the latest trends, staying in touch with current taste and the requests of the market and focusing on aspects such as design, which now play a crucial role in the furnishing sector.
Carlo Piemonte, the director of ASDI (the agency for the development of the chair district) explained the situation.
He believes that the strengths of this production cluster lie in its close links with the local area (embracing 11 villages in the province of Udine), and the many local people who work for it.
Another crucial factor is the ability of the businesses concerned to constantly reinvent themselves. So, from the production of chairs they moved seamlessly to making small armchairs, chaises-longues, sofas, and even outdoor furniture.
All this has also enabled these companies to develop a strong presence in markets abroad (indeed exports account for between 75% and 80% of sales), and in many instances to maintain a steady turnover even in periods of difficulty.
As Carlo Piemonte pointed out: “The economic crisis has made itself felt, particularly because the number of businesses has now decreased. But some good has come of all this, in that we have been able to invest in quality. Indeed, we have seen some companies growing over recent years, although clearly not in every case.” These companies are well used to exciting interest on foreign markets, to the extent that they often receive factory visits from those putting in important orders: buyers who want to check the artisan pedigree of the product, the guarantee that it is really Italian-made and the reliability of the price and service on offer.
The most important thing now for these businesses is to try and “redirect” their exports. But how can this be achieved? By investing further in certain segments of the market in which they already have a significant presence, like the United States and Canada, and focusing in an intelligent manner on some other markets, such as the Scandinavian, African and Chinese. As Carlo Piemonte went on to explain: “With regard to Scandinavia, we need to be particularly sensitive to the fact that they have a concept of design very different from our own. We can approach the African markets, especially those with a developed tourist industry, but only if we have a good knowledge of these countries. The Chinese market also has to be addressed in the correct manner.” The District will do its share, promoting the internationalisation of its member companies in a collective way. One initiative, especially useful for smaller firms, is a 3-D configurator, enabling you to view a specimen model of a chair and personalise it by adding different types of finish, fabric or leather: just one click, and the chair appears in a new guise.
There will also be a drive to certify processes and products, to spread awareness and to develop the distribution network.