John Sacks, inmiddels wel bekend op Officenieuws, maar vooral bekend als marktonderzoeker en adviseur namens JSA Consultancy Services, bezocht wederom een kantoormeubelbeurs in China, en deed verslag voor onder andere Officenieuws. Ik vertaal het niet, maar de gemiddelde Nederlander spreek genoeg Engels om het te kunnen lezen.
CIFF Office Guangzhou 2016
It was warm – 24⁰C (75⁰F) – in Guangzhou, and dry, this March and it would have been sunny if it hadn’t been for the permanently heavy pall of pollution overhanging everything, which because of a lack of any kind of breeze, was allowed to stay put. Still, for the relatively few visitors who were escaping the early spring of northern latitudes, it meant coats and gloves and scarves – and even jackets could be left at home. Very pleasant.
The 37th China International Furniture Fair was held over four days at the very end of March, in 37 halls being just part of the Canton Fair Complex in Guangzhou. With a claimed 750,000 sq. m. of exhibition space and more than 3,500 exhibitors, even the most intrepid visitor couldn’t hope to see everything in the time available. Indeed, making the feat even less achievable, the show’s duration had been cut back by a day compared with 2015. This is the exhibition organisers’ curse; the final day of a five day show is quiet, so a day at the end is lopped off. Then, of course, the fourth day fails to attract the crowds, and everything is crammed into a shorter and shorter period. Neocon in Chicago fell into that trap a few years’ ago and now, from an original five day show, they have just three days which is, in reality, only a day and a half.
CIFF has something for most of the industry sectors and interest groups, including home furniture and components but the office sector is the best represented with a feet-aching eighteen halls. But even this is too much to cover properly in the time available if one wants to do more than walk swiftly round, casting a superficial glance at the exhibits.
The show was heaving on Day 1 but the crowds quickly found better things to do as the show went on, until it was really rather sparsely attended on the Thursday. By then, most of the exhibitors’ senior people had abandoned ship. Let’s hope the organisers don’t allow the days to be cut back still further.
Every exhibition appears, each year, to attract visitors from a specific region. This year’s CIFF was the turn of visitors from India who seemed very numerous, compared to those from Europe or North America. No one seemed really to know why, least of all those from India!
The vast majority of the exhibitors are Chinese companies with a small smattering from other Asian countries including Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia. Some attempt is made to cluster exhibitors with similar products together, thinking that it is helpful, but one result is that there is one group of six enormous halls, with nothing but aisle after aisle of office chairs. An aficionado’s dream, but pity the poor visitor whose interests are less specialised. While in a mood to complain, why can’t the show catalogue provide an alphabetical list of all exhibitors and their stand number to help the visitor find the company they are looking for – and when will the catering facilities be improved? Chinese food is great, but none of the dishes served in the massive, basement, 3,000 seat food hall was identifiable to a non-native.
Apart from some notable exceptions, much of the product on display was unexceptional. To misquote, one had to kiss a lot of frogs to find a princess. There seemed to be as many copies of high profile western products as ever and rather fewer innovative ones than previously from local companies. Judging by the size of stands, there has been some market polarisation with some companies such as Qama, Sunon, Saosen and Victory, many with different areas for each of their separate brands, taking much larger stands than previously, each trying to out-do the other. Indeed, the quality of stand design was in many cases higher than the products shown on the stands. There seems to be a move for the larger companies to dominate the most popular halls, as if they were trying to squeeze out the smaller fry.
As for product trends that could be perceived, height-adjustable and sit-stand tables, desks and benches had quickly found their way here from other markets, especially the USA, along with wood legs on workstations and chairs. Indeed, apart from the ubiquitous white bench which won’t seem to disappear from any major market, wood grain laminates and even the occasional wood veneered top were widely in evidence.
Brightly coloured fabrics vied for attention with more earthy ones, but there was less breakout seating that had been in evidence than in the past two years. Perhaps Chinese office based companies don’t like employees to break out?
Companies and Products
The Sunon stand, at 1,200sq m, was larger than ever. This year, they had eliminated their “VIP” area and added space for extensive presentations of several new ranges from their in-house design team.
One of the more innovative companies exhibiting was Vissun Intelligent Furniture from Wuhan City who showed a wide range of app-controlled systems which integrated monitors into storage and workstations, with mechanisms presenting them on demand, adjusting them to suit the audience, and then stowing them away.
Another of the largest companies, Quama, who, based in Guangzhou, invariably display eye-catching products had an extensive display of attractive furniture. Their individual working enclosures, reminiscent of a business class airline seat, was probably inspired by Steelcase’s Brody WorkLounge but it had taken the idea further.
Yopye, also based in Guangzhou, showed some a wide range of good looking mobile units of different heights and configurations which doubled as storage units and space dividers.
Some companies seemed to delight in trying to keep interested visitors away from their stands and products. Victory, one of the larger Chinese manufacturers, were a good example of this with ropes, officious security guards, a VVIP as well as a VIP area, and a well-enforced “keep off” strategy. Unsurprisingly, their very large stand was invariably sparsely populated.
Kaln, another local company, showed a wide range of breakout furniture whose design, if not especially original, was well thought through.
The ‘wood’ look was taken further with several workstation and table manufacturers creating very realistic finishes by the application of wood grain, photographically created, melamine transfers directly onto steel or aluminium.
MyIdea from Foshan invariably has a bright well-designed stand with colourful, well presented products. This year was no exception, if somewhat spoiled by their Herman Miller Sayl lookalike chairs.
There was some originality in seating on show, although not too much which appealed to western taste. Deco from Dongguan showed a somewhat different styled mesh chair compared to the thousands of others on display.
Interstuhl was one of the very very few European, or indeed western companies, whose products were on display, in their case with distribution in the hands of their local partner. There were, unfortunately, fake examples of their Silver chair on other stands scattered around the show.
One of the most colourful, very large stands was that of Zhongshan Paiger Furniture who used white plastic scaffolding poles to create a common feel for the separate areas used by their three brands.
And finally, there were at least as many amusing sights and signs this year as ever.