We get it. In challenging times, companies become even more focussed on their individual needs rather than exploring what's good for the whole industry which will equally benefit them in the long term.

The decision by the Australian Furniture Association (AFA) to deliver a new format for this year's FURNITEX connect, combining a trade element with a consumer aspect, means some operators will need to step back and understand that the decision is good for the industry as a whole.

'Over the past few years, the rise in the dollar, cheap imports and cost of labour have seriously impacted on this industry,' says AFA CEO Patrizia Torelli. 'So much so, that many of our larger manufacturing firms no longer exist. We have lost a great number of iconic Australian brands as a result, but a very strong industry still exists, it just looks different. 72% of our industry is now made up of small to medium enterprises, many of whom adopt mixed business models of supplying independent retailers or direct to the public,' explains Ms Torelli. 'We are determined to support our larger companies, but at the same time we need to grow some of the small to medium businesses to fill the gap that now exists.'

The AFA are in a strong position to take action to improve what was once one of the country's biggest Australian content shows. Expertise Events (EE) Gary Fitz-Roy reinforces the move for the combined format show. ' We have committed to a format which benefits the majority of the industry and whilst we understand not all agree with the move, we have created a specific trade only area to accommodate these exhibitors. More interestingly many of those who were taking a 'watch and see' approach, are now choosing to exhibit in the trade - consumer space and utilising the public days to refer customers to their stockists. The investment is seen as a brand marketing and promotion opportunity instead of a threat. The bottom line really, is that a small number of Australia's manufacturers are beholden to a portion of the Australian retail sector, and undue pressure is being applied by these franchise conglomerates to grow control of the industry. We are working closely with the retail sector, particularly the independents in a bid to make it clear that competition is healthy and consumer access to great design and innovation will benefit all. It's an ideal environment to hear firsthand what buyers want. It's rare to get consumer feedback so the format allows businesses to test things in the market. At the end of the day the consumer is king!'

FURNITEX Connect is rolling out a number of new initiatives all designed to lure back QUALITY buyers whether they be trade or public.

At the recent stakeholder meeting Fitz-Roy underlined the need for the industry to work together for the greater good and resetting the business model. 'With the Aussie dollar now settling to a lower exchange it opens the doors for Australian companies to compete in a global market and we need to cater for the bespoke through to the majors. The Quality Standards, Site Study Tours and Hosted Buyer Program are proving to be our biggest investment but by far the most important decisions we have taken.'

Expertise Events has rolled out a Dynamic Pricing model to make it possible for companies, large or small, to target the audience they want. Fitz-Roy added 'funnily enough when companies talk through the process and our decision logically, they take a step back, get it, and commit to it.'

'It's also interesting to see how many companies now see we have a clear vision for FURNITEX connect and unlike some of Australia's politicians, we're not chopping and changing our policies on a whim or at the behest of a few squeaky wheels,' he laughs.

'Most importantly though, those who haven't exhibited for some years are returning. I think it's largely due to the fact that as a combined team of a strong industry association in the AFA taking the lead, and an energetic new Event team in EE, we are revving the whole industry and doing our best to cater for big, small and specialised enterprises. It's a genuine solution to a problem and FURNITEX Connect is underpinning the new position as being the conduit that connects the whole industry.'

FURNITEX connect will be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure that it continues to evolve to meet market needs and deliver a solution to the industry for its long term success. To learn more about FURNITEX connect contact Expertise Events Managing Director, Gary Fitz-Roy on Garyf@expertiseevents.com.au or 02 9452 7575 or visit www.furnitex.com.au

Expertise Events