The South African furniture industry has been identified as an important sector in the South African economy with potential to create jobs, contribute to exports, and help develop new businesses and opportunities. The nature of the industry allows for geographic spread of economic activity, including in rural areas. For this reason, Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS), in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) and the South African Furniture Initiative (SAFI) are working to develop a comprehensive Furniture Industry Masterplan that will consolidate the opportunities in the furniture sector.

As a proudly South African company and a supplier to the domestic furniture industry, PG Bison fully supports the development of this plan and has been working with SAFI to help create awareness of it, as well as engagement between all stakeholders within the sector.

Bernadette Isaacs, Managing Director of SAFI, says the plan will be launched in March 2020, once the draft has been finalised. SAFI has been touring the country hosting workshops with industry players from the entire value chain, from suppliers to manufacturers and retailers, seeking input and discussing potential developments to benefit the entire sector.

“The response has been very good,” she says. “There’s been good turnout and the feedback has been positive.”

Since the concept for the Furniture Industry Master Plan was first announced in 2019 at the Furniture Sector Forum, SAFI and its partners have been working on various initiatives, including creating a South African Furniture Directory aimed at registered manufacturers, designers, public procurement officers and corporate procurement professionals. “They are able to visit the SAFI website and add their details to the online database,” explains Isaacs. “We then want to focus on creating an online procurement platform, so for example if a buyer is looking for a manufacturer in the Eastern Cape, they could do so on this portal.”

Isaacs explains that the objective of the Furniture Industry Master Plan is to create a document that outlines the future of the sector in the short-, medium- and long-term and becomes the “go-to” guide for the public and private sector, as well as investors, whether local or foreign. There are currently two such plans in place for other industries – the automotive, and the clothing and textile sectors.

The plan will include recommendations for the industry. Some of these might already be in the process of being implemented within businesses in the sector, but Isaacs says the industry has not stood together until now. By working together, the industry can improve its ability to influence its future, which is why SAFI is seeking to foster collaboration, knowledge-sharing and dialogue. Isaacs says she is encouraged by the shift in mindset she has seen taking place.

She likens it to the way South Africans will support a provincial rugby team, whether it’s Blue Bulls or Stormers or whatever the case may be, when the teams compete against each other locally. But when South Africa competes internationally, everyone will support the Springboks. While there may be competition between furniture sector businesses, by standing together as a South African industry and cooperating, the whole sector benefits.

Justin Berry, Sales & Marketing Executive at PG Bison, says that the industry must collaborate if it is to survive. “The sector is under threat from imports and has been shedding jobs. Working together – as private, public and civil sector – is the only way to plan a positive future,” he says. “We believe that the Furniture Sector Master Plan is a massive step forward for the industry and we’re proud to be supporting SAFI and its partners in all their initiatives.”