Furniture makers endure tough times amid pandemic
The furniture industry has been left devastated by the ongoing pandemic as people tend to shy away from non-essential items during times of crisis, according to industry insiders.
Small-scale and non-branded producers were the worst affected as they lacked the capital required to continue operations amid low demand for the past several months, said Salim H Rahman, chairman of the Bangladesh Furniture Industry Owners Association.
Around 60-65 per cent of the total furniture market is led by non-branded producers.
Since the people are now reluctant to purchase unnecessary products like furniture, the drastic fall in demand has had a huge impact on the sector, Rahman said.
Small-scale producers that operate based on orders are suffering from low sales, making it difficult to maintain their factories and showrooms.
However, this is not the case for big producers, according to the association chairman.
"We (branded producers) get orders from the government and corporate sector in large volumes. So, we were not affected that much," said Rahman, who is also chairman and managing director of Hatil Complex.
Branded producers started to receive orders two or three months ago but with a second wave of Covid-19 infections sweeping the globe, the price of raw materials rose as many of the exporting countries imposed lockdown once again.
"We have a time limitation to deliver our products but we cannot meet the time," Rahman added.
Md Delwar Hossain is an entrepreneur who had a furniture factory in Naryanganj and a showroom in Jatrabari, both of which were eventually shut down in November.
This is because sales totally dropped off in the April-June period last year, when the coronavirus outbreak was at its peak.
The situation did not improve though as sales were almost 80 per cent lower during the July-November period compared to previous months.
"I did not find any incentive package," Hossain said, adding that it was impossible to sustain both the factory and showroom as a result.
In response to a query, Hatil's Rahman said sales for small-scale producers will be around 40 per cent lower by the year's end while the number would be 20-25 per cent for big producers.
In regards to export income, Rahman said shipments had been halted for three months.
Besides, some countries are still under lockdown so exports might fall by around 30 per cent, he added.
Furniture exports totalled $76.41 million in July-November, 2020, which is 3.15 per cent lower compared to the same period the previous year and 29.68 per cent short of the industry target, data from the Export Promotion Bureau shows.
According to a recent study by the Access to Information (a2i) programme styled, 'Post-Covid-19 jobs and Skills in Bangladesh', approximately 6 lakh workers were laid off in the furniture sector and the number may rise.
The market size of the sector was around Tk 10,000 crore in 2019.
Kamruzzaman Kamal, marketing director of Pran and owner of Regal Furniture, said they were impacted during the government-imposed lockdown between March 26 and May 30 but later things started to rebound.
"We have almost returned to pre-pandemic levels as our products are affordable," he said. "I hoped to see some growth in 2020 but it turned out to be worse than the previous year in terms of sales," Kamal added.