30/06/2003

Experts urge study of Italian furniture design trends

Furniture manufacturers in Northern Ireland were encouraged to “invest in design” at a special briefing on the latest Italian trends, held recently in Lisburn City.

Important design trends from the recent Milan Furniture Fair, the industry’s most important event, were among a number of key issues considered by a panel of experts and senior managers from local companies at a one-day Invest Northern Ireland organised workshop in Lisburn Civic Centre.

Terri Scott, Managing Director of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise at Invest NI, said: “By focusing on design Northern Ireland furniture companies can successfully differentiate themselves and their products in key markets, such as Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, despite the competitive pressures posed from increasing volumes of imported products of steadily improving quality from lower cost economies.”

The furniture industry generates annual sales of around £100 million and employs approximately 2,000 people within some 200 companies in the province. Exports sales are growing steadily and currently account for around 40% of the sector's total output.

Professor Scott said: “We want more companies to recognise that adding value through design can have a very positive impact on profitability. Through our Accelerating Entrepreneurship strategy and our Principles for Business Support, we aim to encourage our companies to position design at the core of their business and thereby strengthen their overall competitiveness”.

The seminar, the first of its type for the local furniture industry, also drew from the experience of Invest NI’s Design Group, and delegates also heard how two Invest NI client companies, Tretzo of Armagh City and Crane Furniture of Newry City, have benefited significantly from participating in Invest NI’s Design Development Programme (DDP) using external designers to help develop products and improve marketing.

Information on the latest design trends in furniture, interiors, fabrics and colour was provided in a number of interactive and highly visual presentations.

Invest NI recently commissioned an independent review of the domestic furniture sector by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The report highlighted the need to improve capability in several areas including: design; customer service; exports; productivity; and skills.

(SP)

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