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Friday, Jun 14, 2002

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Variety - Interiors & Homes

Furniture retailing dons a new look

Nina Varghese

Durian Furniture, a shop dealing with imported furniture in Chennai.

CHENNAI, June 13

IMPORTED furniture showrooms, backed by just in time (JIT) inventory management, are opening new frontiers in furniture retailing not just in Chennai, but also in all the major metros.

Powered by these new entrants, furniture retailing is moving away from the traditional market in Royapettah area in Chennai.

In the past two years, Chennai has witnessed a sea change in people's perceptions on purchases. Mr Ritesh Mohta, dealer for Durian Imported Furniture in Chennai, said that staring with cars, nobody buys a product to last a lifetime. He says the same trend that surfaced when new cars were introduced in the market is evident in the furniture segment also. After four to five years, everyone wants to change the way his or her home looks, he says.

The need to change one's home is also fuelled by easy availability of loans for refurbishing homes, a Chennai-based interior decorator says.

Besides the showrooms, the Chennai customer also has access to a number of special exhibition sales. The imported furniture sourced from all over the world is all flat-pack, ready-to-assemble kind. Mr Mohta says that Durian offers products at varying prices, ranging from Rs 14,000 to Rs 3 lakh in every segment. There is great demand at every level.

Mr T.V. Bhaskaran, General Manager, Mahmayi Office & Home Furniture (P) Ltd, says that it has become more expensive and time-consuming to repair furniture these days. People just replace the furniture.

Mahmayi, with one showroom in Chennai, is headquartered in Dubai. Mr Bhaskaran says there is great demand for cheap sofa sets from Malaysia priced at Rs 20,000. Though there are dining tables ranging from Rs12,500 to Rs 52,000, the demand is for pieces at the lower end. Fire-proof safes are another big draw, Mr Bhaskaran says. The prices range from Rs 6,000 a 27-kg one and Rs 31,000 for the 210-kg one. Also available are fire-proof filing cabinets priced at Rs 65,000.

More than the price, the customer seems to be thrilled at the variety available. A number of customers Business Line spoke to did not think that the prices were too high. These importers are able to offer this price despite the high incidence of duties, which are over 65 per cent. Mr Vivek Grover, Partner, Pace Furniture, says that these prices are possible because of the large scale of operations in the manufacturing countries such as Malaysia, Taiwan, China and Indonesia. Pace caters to the mid-market segment and has made an impact with computer table. The company has now diversified into the home segment also.

Since no formal study has been done, most retailers are unable to assess the exact size of the Indian market. They all agree that it is huge.

Pace and Durian are two Indian retail brands which have a national presence.

Some stores are company-owned while others are franchised out. These showrooms are backed by after-sales service and just in time inventory management, which enables the retailers to stock a larger variety of products in the showroom.

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