Over the last decade Turkey has witnessed considerable growth in the office furniture industry — climbing to fifth place among European countries and seventh worldwide, according to industry representatives.
According to the “Woodwork and Furniture Specialization Report,” published in May 2006, Turkey’s furniture industry had exceeded $6 billion in volume, with the office furniture market accounting for 20 to 30 percent of the total. A general audit of industrial shops conducted by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) in 2002 shows that 29,346 enterprises are operating in the field, while the total number employed is 92,567. However, Tuna says growth in the sector is inevitable thanks to developments seen in the manufacturing industry over the last six years.
The office furniture industry was first introduced to Turkey in the 1940s, with merchants seeking to furnish the offices of foreign enterprises newly settled in the country. It didn’t take off, however, until luxurious business centers and plazas — keen to highlight corporate identity — emerged as a vibrant market for office furniture suppliers.
Today’s Turkish office furniture industry is the fruit of the process initiated by Turkey’s customs union with the EU in 1995, which provided access to industrial parks and free trade zones to acquire materials and equipment. The industry is now able to compete in world markets with its young industrial parks and rapid restructuring and investment trends.
Turkey’s office furniture industry has gradually been turning into a promising market as can be seen from data provided by the Export Promotion Center (İGEME). In 2007 Turkey earned $318 million through office furniture exports, constituting 31.04 percent of total furniture exports. Tuna notes that Germany, France, Holland, Greece and Iraq are the biggest export markets for the Turkish furniture industry. He adds that the export volume exceeds import figures, creating a trade surplus in the sector. İGEME data show that in 2007, office furniture was imported at a total cost of $254 million, or 37.4 percent of all furniture imports. Tuna emphasizes the need to reduce imports as they pose problems for the industry. “Unregulated imported items that do not comply with Turkish standards and lack government oversight threaten the reliability of the Turkish industry since customers blame such problems not on the country that imports the items, but on Turkish companies,” Tuna says.
Although the industry is seeing a growth tendency, some problems are holding back the industry’s potential. Tuna cites the shortage of trained workers, high taxes and high insurance and energy rates as major problems. This is coupled with the government’s failure to crack down on the unregistered economy, which is estimated to account for almost 50 percent of the market. The industry needs to iron out problems about quality, image, trademarks and standardization in addition to a lack of quality consciousness in the domestic market. Also, the shrinkage of the domestic durable goods market and the consequent idle power of investment are causing critically fierce price competition. Globally, adverse economic conditions make the current situation worse. Tuna stresses the necessity of immediate cooperation between government agencies and private companies to enable an increase in export volume.
Another issue that affects office furniture is the lack of brand marketing and design promotion. Güran Gökyay, general manager of Nurus Office Furniture, says Nurus, well aware of the industry’s problems, is investing in new technology to prove the quality of the Turkish office furniture industry. Gökyay says effective marketing will ensure the success of manufacturing design and sales.
Despite the challenges it faces, Turkey’s office furniture industry is looking forward to a bright future thanks to its young, dynamic market and advanced technology, together with a developing awareness of quality and design. Tuna is optimistic about the expected boom in the sector if all obstacles are removed from the exporters’ path because the Turkish office furniture industry is currently in a period of restructuring, allowing it to move forward.