Whether you’re importing your furniture, or you design, manufacture and display it yourself, there are multiple variables you need to consider when running a successful furniture business in South Africa.
It is a tough market that is dominated by large corporations. Small business owners need to stand out when it comes to design, consumer expenditure, investment opportunities and skill development.
This can be a lot to achieve on your own, so this article will provide insights on how to effectively manage these challenges.
Know your market like the back of your hand
There is a lot that needs to be done concerning market research for a furniture company. Below are some of the key aspects you need to focus on during your research.
Learn about your customers
- What designs are popular at the moment in South Africa?
- What designs are popular in the USA and Europe? These trends will likely find themselves in South African markets in no time
- What designs do people in South Africa typically prefer?
- Is your target market interested in aesthetics or comfort?
Learn about your competition
- What products are they selling?
- How are they reaching their potential clients?
- Do they import products or manufacture them?
- If they sell to retail, who are their main clients?
- Are they exporting?
Managing your stock is crucial
Managing the inventory for a furniture business is not an easy task. Below are some tips that you can apply, but remember that every furniture business is different.
- Firstly, it would be best for you to get inventory management software. SaaS (software as a service) businesses are in high demand, so finding one that suits your criteria and needs should be relatively straightforward
- If you produce your own furniture, you need to take stock of the materials you use to produce the furniture, and always make sure you have enough for the next orders before they are placed. These items would include things such as wood, metal, material, nails, screws, glue, and more
- Keep track of the tools you use and to make sure you have enough spare parts for disposable items such as blades and drill bits
- If you are importing you need to make sure you have enough stock available
- When sorting items in the warehouse, put your top sellers closer to the loading area
Interesting facts about the furniture business in South Africa
- There is an estimate of 2,200 furniture companies in South Africa, and most of these companies are small operations
- The furniture manufacturing sector in South Africa contributes 1% to the national GDP
- It is estimated that there are 26,400 people employed in the furniture manufacturing industry in South Africa
Setting goals: increasing your revenue
Setting goals is vital to succeeding in business as it is in anything else. Below are some goals you can set for yourself.
- The percentage you want to increase your turnover by within a period of 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years
- Launching new products, either new designs or products you aren't selling yet
- If you want to have branches in different locations, set goals for when you want to launch these new locations
However, there is more to goal setting than just setting a goal. For a goal to be achievable, you also need to create a plan for how you will get there:
- Reduce the cost of your production while maintaining the same quality, by doing things such as securing better prices on the material used
- Improve the quality of your products by using better quality materials or improving the designs
- Find new products to import which your clients want and need
- Start using social media in better ways to attract customers, create a strategy for your social media marketing
- Decide what other marketing mediums you want to use and then create a plan to start using these mediums
- Utilise broadcast advertising
- Attend trade shows. You can explore TradeFairDates and see which trade shows are coming up
- Create a list of potential retailers that could sell your product and start cold calling them
- Look for companies whose products complement yours, but aren't a competition, and form a partnership
Growing through finance
Incentives for employees and growing your team
- Give your employees bonuses based on the company achieving certain goals
- Offer a small employee-based shareholding for great employees who stick with the company.
- Offer your employees medical aid or hospital plans. These can cost you anything from R400 to R3000 a month.
- Provide them with new skills by offering courses like advanced woodworking or a certificate for furniture making
Growing your team - financial considerations
Over time you may want to employ some new staff:
- Carpenter R6,500 per month
- Welder R9,500 per month
- Upholsterer R7,300 per month
Preparing to exit your business
A great exit strategy for someone wanting to sell the business down the road would be to plan to sell it from the start.
Unfortunately, the South African furniture manufacturing sector is dominated by vertically-integrated corporations, and small businesses struggle to gain a top spot in this competitive environment. Within this context, it may be wise to be acquired by a larger firm, or sell parts of your business that are performing well (like your customer base, research development or intellectual property).
When it comes time to achieve an accurate valuation of your business, ensure that you highlight your unique selling propositions, focusing on your assets, location and other value drivers. You can use ValueRight to create a pragmatic valuation of your business, and present it to potential investors or buyers.
Likewise, it is crucial to prepare for the negotiation phase, as you do not want to undersell your business. You can never be too prepared for negotiations, and you will need to ensure that every aspect of your business is functioning at optimal performance during this time.