Last year, FCNews called attention to the fact a growing number of Western manufacturers have started to aggressively turn to mainland China as an opportunity for sales. This was further emphasized this year as China’s market—actually most of Asia—has not felt the full brunt of the recession as much as other parts of the world.
“The Asian market is not down like the rest of the world,” Aye noted. “While disappointing to the Chinese, their 10% growth in GDP this year is the envy of other countries. The growing domestic market in China has shifted some of the focus from being a low cost supplier and exporter to the world to the largest opportunity for global manufacturers to supply. This change will continue over the next five years with the continued growth of China’s consuming middle class.”
He is not just touting PR rhetoric. By China’s economic standards, there are 350 million people now considered middle class status. Plus, in the next decade, 325 million people are expected to migrate from rural areas into cities. And many of them will be wanting to decorate their new surroundings. (By comparison, the U.S. population in 2008 was estimated to be just over 304 million.)
One of the companies making headway in the Chinese, and Asian market as a whole, is Mannington. Mike Chappell, international manager for the commercial division, said the strength of the company’s overall package of products and services is what allows it to be successful. “Our certifications, from CRI to LEED, are recognized as leading indicators of quality and environmental friendliness, even in India. Many companies in this region can produce great products, but doing so with all the bells and whistles is second nature to us.”
On the residential side, the company has partnered with Elegant Living, one of the country’s leading wood brands, to sell the Mannington brand in its stores. The Chinese mill dedicated a large swath of its booth to Mannington branded products.
“Elegant is doing a very nice job with our brand,” noted Ed Duncan, Mannington’s senior vice president of residential marketing.
While Beaulieu of America chose not to exhibit at DACF, the company, which already has a presence in high end retail out- lets in 44 of China’s cities, set up shop 10 minutes from the event at the Parkview Hotel with a tailor-made display and product line under its successful Bliss brand.
Christopher Champlin, international regional manager, said the company expected to have about 100 of the units out in the market, with each one holding 700 SKUS in 44 Bliss products. “The Bliss image translates the same here and with the way this country is growing, both economically and in design sophistication, we expect the brand to be a success like it has in the U.S.”
Part of the reason is that “what we learned from already being in stores in China, led to the design of the display and how the products are named and presented.”
Joe Williams, Beaulieu’s vice president of international and distributor sales, summed up the view of many U.S. manufacturers now selling in China: “We are taking a long-term view to grow our brand and image. Housing is going to continue to grow as more people migrate to the cities. With so many people wanting to create a better future for themselves, the opportunities are currently endless.”