Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Furniture firm wins $1.6m order for African resort

Master weavers on the Philippine island of Cebu will spend 30 days making one of Iola's synthetic rattan sail beds. Photo / Supplied
Master weavers on the Philippine island of Cebu will spend 30 days making one of Iola's synthetic rattan sail beds. Photo / Supplied

A New Zealand outdoor furniture company says it has beaten 19 international manufacturers to secure a $1 million-plus deal to supply a five-star resort being built in Cape Verde, an island nation off the west coast of Africa.

Adam Kay, who founded Iola in Auckland five years ago, said the company was invited to tender in January.

"I thought, 'Pie in the sky - it's going to very difficult [to win]'," Kay said. "We found out a couple weeks back that we'd won."

He said the order, worth more than €1 million ($1.6 million), would fill 50 shipping containers when it was sent to Cape Verde at the end of the year.

The 6000 pieces of rattan furniture will furnish the Melia Dunas Beach resort, which is under construction on the Cape Verde island of Sal, where tourists enjoy its white sand beaches and turquoise waters.

"I'm not aware of any deal that's bigger in our [rattan furniture] industry ... certainly in Australasia," Kay said.

Kay said Iola's furniture was manufactured by "master weavers" in the Philippines.

Like most manufacturers, Iola used synthetic rattan as natural resources of the plant had been severely depleted, he said, adding that natural rattan tended to rot if it was left outside.

Kay said it was not feasible to make the furniture in New Zealand as skilled weavers were not available.

"The main guys that we employ are from the island of Cebu, which is where the industry was born," he said. "The skill they've got is a pretty rare commodity."

Kay said one of Iola's furniture pieces, known as the "sail bed", took 30 days to weave.

"You could imagine if we were trying to do that [work] in a Western country it would be cost prohibitive - you just couldn't do it."

Kay said that Iola had suppliedfurniture to other resorts in Fijiand New Caledonia.

"We get a lot of business because our furniture is designed for the New Zealand market, which is high UV and high rainfall."

Kay said the company would soon be shipping smaller furniture orders to Sri Lanka and Barbados.

- NZ Herald

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