The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Quality seal to boost NZ furniture trade

Blair McKolskey says the number of workers in the industry has fallen from 8500 to 6000 in the past four years. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Blair McKolskey says the number of workers in the industry has fallen from 8500 to 6000 in the past four years. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Furniture makers hope a new "seal of quality" will promote locally made products and bolster this country's manufacturers against the tide of cheap imports, mainly from Asia.

Blair McKolskey, chairman of the Furniture & Cabinet Making Association of New Zealand, said the industry had struggled to survive the past few years.

"The industry has had its back against the wall as we battle against imported furniture combined with the effect of a world recession, which has affected sales across the board," said McKolskey, who is also the managing director of Finewood, an Auckland-based furniture manufacturer.

The master seal has been introduced by Fitec, the national forest and wood industry training organisation. It will be attached to products as a tag or sticker, with its use conditional on at least 50 per cent of the manufacturer's employees having a recognised trade qualification, or being in training.

McKolskey said that in the past four years the number of people employed by the local furniture industry had fallen from 8500 to 6000, while the number of companies had dropped from 1800 to 1300.

New Zealand-made furniture accounts for $960 million of the $1.3 billion total domestic market, according to Fitec.

McKolskey said those statistics might sound okay, but it was the growth in imports that was worrying.

Between the mid-1990s and 2007, he said, imported furniture's share of the total domestic market surged from about 6 per cent to 30 per cent.

"But over the past eight or nine quarters there's been a change in the trend ... our domestic [locally manufactured] share has grown, and that's really positive."

McKolskey said the seal was a statement about quality, and explained why a New Zealand-made product might be more expensive than an imported item.

Sealy New Zealand general manager Glenn Wahlstrom said the North Shore-based bed manufacturer would be putting the master seal on its products.

"It allows us to promote how we - as New Zealand manufacturers - can actually charge a bit more to provide a guaranteed high-quality, New Zealand-made product."

- NZ Herald

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