Furniture factories in Romania exported furniture worth 2.2 billion Euros in 2017.
Furniture factories in Romania exported furniture worth 2.2 billion Euros last year, whereas imports stood at only 608 Euros, this being one of the few economic sectors where the trade balance registers a surplus of over one billion Euros. The first ten countries that Romanian furniture is bound to purchased furniture worth 1.7 billion Euros, accounting for 78% of the total volume of Romania’s furniture exports, data issued by the Association of Romanian Furniture Producers, APMR, shows. Last year, Germany purchased furniture worth 427.5 million Euros, registering a 7% increase as compared to the previous year. According to APMR, German businessmen actually purchase some 20% of Romania’s total volume of furniture exports.
New trends have emerged due to the customers’ changing preferences and to innovation in the field. Furniture and, as of late, interior design, seem to become increasingly important to the Romanians. Customers tend to choose pieces of furniture with multiple functions and in neutral colours, precisely to be able to change their role. Another trend in the woodworking industry is that of ecological furniture. There are also entrepreneurs who have come up with novelties in the field: they managed to turn recycled wood into luxury furniture.
Three years ago, Cristian Branea managed to get financing worth 32.000 Euros, after winning the competition “Fabricat în Ţara lui Andrei” (“Made in Andrei’s Country”), to lay the foundation for a social business in the field of recycled wood furniture production. Together with two friends, he opened a furniture and interior design workshop in Manesti, Dambovita County. The idea turned out to be a successful one, with the pieces of furniture reaching the remotest countries.
Cristian Branea tells us more about how the whole project started: “The idea came to me a long time ago, when I refurbished my own apartment. Furthermore, I wanted very much to start a business of my own, after having worked in a corporation for years and in several NGOs. I wanted to start a business in the field of creative industries. This is how I got the idea of starting a furniture business, and more precisely to make furniture out of recycled wood, after I had noticed a trend in interior design, using this material. There are many people who collect wood from demolished houses, just like bricks and any other building material which can be reused. We use oak tree wood, more precisely large beams made of oak wood, we cut them and then process them just like any other piece of wood. The people we have employed come from disadvantaged categories, they had long been unemployed, people aged over 45 years, who had been left jobless or young people who had never had a job before. All of them come from rural areas.”
These young entrepreneurs intended to develop their own brand, to offer pieces of furniture with a contemporary, minimalist design, or simple, natural products, as Cristian Branea says: “We use exclusively wood and not all our products are made of recycled wood; we also use nut tree wood, brass and marble, but the point is to use fine, highly valuable materials, in significant quantities. We have collections of tables, coffee tables, shelves, pieces of furniture with drawers, accessories, light fixtures. We permanently try to diversify the range of our products. We also produce best-selling dining tables and we actually provide the widest offer for this category of product. These are high value objects which bring us profit. For a market such as Romania, they aren’t cheap, considering labor and materials, but we've been trying to keep prices low. When we sell to the United States, our profit margin can reach as much as 400%. A table we make can cost as much as 8,000 dollars there, while in Bucharest it can cost two or three thousand Euros.”
The business started with custom-made products for restaurants, bars, and cafes, and it developed by word of mouth. However, most orders came as a result of taking part in furniture fairs.
Cristian Branea: “We started at the Bucharest Furniture Fair at the ROMEXPO Exhibition Centre in 2014, with an initial design that we came up with. After that, every year, we worked almost exclusively on a custom design basis. A lot of architects and interior designers saw what we were making, and the orders started coming in. In 2015, we went to the first international fair, in Cologne, when we totally changed our customers. From that point on, we started exporting 90% of what we were making. We have customers in the US, Saudi Arabia, even Malaysia. Right from the start, we thought this should be the direction to go, because what we make is very valuable, and large in size, and only fits in certain venues. When I design this furniture, I always think of New York lofts. We knew right from the start that this was the direction to take, but we gradually realized that there was a demand in Romania too. Which is why we opened a showroom in Bucharest a few weeks ago.”
As such, making business with furniture made out of recycled wood is not unprofitable. It brings in money, which is why investments will continue. Our guests want to grow the business, and to create more jobs.
Here is Cristian Branea again: “We ended each year with growing profits. The activity is lucrative, and right now we have no competition domestically. Even though we're not a famous brand, we realized that there was demand. People need stuff like ours, and they dare buy expensive products made in Romania. This is special furniture. A lot of times we work with techniques that are totally innovative. For instance, some of our most spectacular products are made by burning wood, they are black pieces that we sometimes combine with brass, they come out very interesting. For the end of the month, we signed up for a fair in New York. This is the first time we go to a fair outside Europe. So far, our best sales were in the United States.”
Some of the priorities of this business include diversifying the range of products by combining various materials, expanding collaboration with architects and designers, and promoting the Bucharest showroom in order to boost sales.