Creativity and connection for stronger sales

Tuong Nguyen

Tran Viet Tien
Tran Viet Tien

Tran Viet Tien, managing director of Gia Long Fine Art Joint Stock Company, a member of the Handicraft and Wood Industry Association of HCMC (Hawa), had a talk with The Saigon Times Daily over creativity and connection in furniture sales. Excerpts:

The Saigon Times Daily: As demand in both local and international markets has tumbled in many fields, do you see any bright signs for the woodworking, fine art and handicraft industries?

– Tran Viet Tien: Producers are under huge pressure of high input costs while it is very hard to convince customers to accept higher prices given financial distress. They are spending less on good-looking and sophisticated items. As a member of Hawa, I want to say that Vietnamese enterprises in the woodworking and handicraft industries have more competitiveness than Chinese enterprises. We have advantages on the home ground, while our prices are much lower than products imported from China. Earlier, Taiwanese and Chinese products sold well at local interior furnishing shops but now it is different. The reason is that consumers have found their incomes shrinking and they want to go patriotic by using Vietnamese goods. It is high time to reduce woodwork import ratios.

Does the home-ground advantage benefit consumers or producers?

– If enterprises want to sustain development, exploit markets in long term and receive support from professional distributors worldwide, interests of consumers must be the top priority and they should not discriminate between Vietnamese and international consumers. As Vietnamese consumers now prioritize using domestic goods, enterprises in long-term business strategy should let consumers know that Vietnamese products are cheaper due to little or no import and transport cost. Moreover, some domestic products are of higher quality than Chinese-made products while our prices are much lower.

After attending the Vifa Home domestic furniture fairs Hawa organized in 2010 and 2011, enterprises joining the third event in the last quarter of this year have gradually combined with each other to advance on the same road. They take advantage of the woodwork trade fairs to set up a specific strategy to create a value chain from production, consultancy, supply and sale in a professional way.

For international and local distributors, they cannot take a clear look into the Vietnamese woodworking industry if there are just a few products are displayed at the fair. Some fairs ended up in failure as organizers could not deliver a specific message due to few booths and products.

Do you mean that enterprises still have to continue investing in creativity, making new products to raise competitiveness despite the ongoing challenges?

– Exactly! Each producer should bring to international or domestic fairs new products. If a producer has new ideas, it will create impressive production lines which can draw the attention of professional distributors. World furniture demand has slumped in recent times. Some foreign markets which previously had strong advantages in terms of creativity have now cut investments in development of new products. Therefore, professional distributors will shift to new markets to seek suppliers that can create new and diversified products.

No producer can forever depend on outsourcing. If a producer can get a design tool, it will be key to any problems on marketing and sales. Businesses that can set consumption trends will be in a favorable position on the market.

With your experience, what do international distributors think about Vietnamese woodworking and handicraft makers?

– Foreign distributors at any fairs always ask whether a participating enterprise is a producer or a trader. A trader never goes far as it doesn’t know clearly about process, design, creativity and production. Therefore, if a product is found to have defects, distributors will incur losses.

Global consumption trends show that a cycle of woodwork and handicraft is shortened. Most local and international customers only use products for several years and will replace them with others. Producers have to keep up with this and find out ways to offer low-priced products.

Enterprises have to apply new materials to diversify functions of products to secure success. In the current situation, those sticking to the status quo will fail to sell their products on the market.

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