Interview: Serdar Ergün

Mustafa Balcı, President of Türkiye Mobilya Sanayicileri Derneği (Turkish Furniture Industrialists Association-MOSDER)

We continue to work with our all efforts to reach $5 billion export number as the target of the furniture sector within the scope of 2023 vision.

Turkey can compete with the world with its powerful export items. The furniture sector is among the areas that cement this competitive power. We talked to Mustafa Balcı, President of Türkiye Mobilya Sanayicileri Derneği (MOSDER), about the current state of the furniture sector in the national and global scale, how it was affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and how it adapts the technology.

“We export Turkish furniture to 179 different countries”

How do you see Turkey’s potential in terms of new furniture designs and furniture exports? We also would like to know about the countries that import Turkish furniture the most

We export Turkish furniture to 179 different countries today. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) data; Iraq, Germany, Libya, Saudi Arabia, the USA, France, the UK, Israel, the Netherlands, Qatar, Romania, the United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic, Italy, and Azerbaijan are the countries that import our furniture the most.

With the pandemic period, our new target markets are the countries of the Americas, especially the USA. Last year, we aimed to increase our $200-million worth of exports to the USA up to $1 billion. The tensions between the USA and China continue due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In this respect, international procurement committees conduct negotiations with high-capacity manufacturers in Turkey. And we aim to increase our $3.5 billion total furniture exports up to $4.5 billion this year. We will work ardently in the second half of 2020 and hopefully reach our goals.

In recent years, the Turkish furniture industry has become the locomotive for the country’s economy. This sector provides employment to 500,000 people, provides foreign trade surplus; thus, is the backbone of Turkey in terms of its contribution to the economy. Even though our business was interrupted due to COVID-19, we continue to work in order to develop our sector with our R&D activities continuously improving domestic and national production, our design power, employment investments, and quality production. The Turkish furniture sector is developed day by day with the technology used in production, increasing export means and our exporting companies. Today, we can compete with the biggest furniture producing countries in the world.

The Turkish furniture industry contains small and medium scale companies as well as hundreds of producers with high brand value. And the brand value of Turkish furniture in the world is increasing day by day. The most important factors that trigger this increase in the value are product design, R&D activities, quality, craftsmanship, labour, technological adaptation, and customer satisfaction.

“We took the necessary measures against the pandemic”

No doubt that COVID-19 pandemic affected furniture producers as well as other sectors. As the President of MOSDER, can you evaluate on the reflection of the uncertainty brought by the outbreak on the Turkish furniture sector?

As MOSDER members, we have taken the necessary measures in our production centres since the first days of COVID-19. We meticulously conducted all necessary hygiene controls to protect the health of our employees. Some of our members temporarily halted their production activities in the pandemic process. Security controls were taken to the highest level in the companies that continued production. However, curfews and lockdowns on weekends after the second week of March led to an 80% decline in internal market furniture sales. Before that, the furniture sector had had a 15% export increase in the first two months of 2020. Then, the export in our sector decreased by 20% in the second week and by 35% in the last week of March.

However, with the normalising process, the wheels are now turning in the furniture sector.  We continued and continue to work with full capacity to catch up on our 2020 year-end target. Accordingly, on behalf of the furniture sector, the increase we achieved in June is 48% more than the same period last year. Thus, we retrieved our loss in the 3-month pandemic period and repaired the damage. If we could achieve the increase of June in the next months, we think that we can leave 2020 behind with a close level to our target in furniture export.

And we’ve reached $1.8 billion export figures by the 7th month of 2020.  In these days when exports re-encouraged us, we aim to grow by 17-18% and carry our furniture industry ahead of last year.

“The furniture sector keeps up with innovations quickly”

In parallel with technological developments, furniture also changed like many other products, and this change is still ongoing. How do you assess the global technological development of home and office furniture? What is the state of our local furniture manufacturers in this development?

The highly dynamic furniture sector rapidly adapts to innovations. As a taste-maker sector, we have learned so much from the pandemic period. In this period, our brands concentrated on the R&D activities in parallel with the new world order. E-commerce has largely developed.

It is necessary to point out that furniture is not only about home but also about the products of constructions like offices and hotels. Nowadays, almost all furniture objects can be produced as modern, trendy, and functional. In this regard, the products correctly integrated with technology are offered for sale by our brands. Especially, in the Turkish furniture industry, investments made in production with smart robots and R&D show how our sector easily adapts to technological development.

As the representatives of the Turkish furniture sector, we have achieved all our goals in 2019 and magnificently entered 2020. Then, in the furniture exhibition we organised in Istanbul, we have hosted foreign procurement committees, made several agreements for either the domestic or foreign market. In this period, when we are used to living with a pandemic now, all our brands continue their investments. Lastly, I want to mention that we continue to work with our all effort to reach the $5 billion export number as the target of the furniture sector within the scope of 2023 vision.