The COVID-19 ripple effect continues to be felt across many industries and while it has been devastating in many ways, it’s not been without silver linings – especially when it comes to the Aussie sofa industry.
Faced with even longer than normal lead times for imported sofas, plus an increasing desire to order a custom design, many consumers are choosing to buy local ensuring they get exactly what they want and within a speedy timeframe too.
Sydney based Contents ID has found its customer base is increasingly searching for locally made products (due to faster availability than imported goods) and a desire to support Australian businesses. The bespoke factor is a huge pull too.
“Buying a locally made product gives you the benefit of ordering something custom as no two spaces are the same. There’s greater flexibility in regards to size, design, and upholstery options as well as a smaller lead time when compared to overseas imports,” says owner Andrew Algar.
The pandemic has also resulted in a lack of available shipping containers resulting in an international freight system that is often moving at glacial speed. “Having the manufacturing a short drive away means you have more control of the lead times with the local pieces and a further hand in the Australian economy too.”
Established in 2015, for Sydney furniture company Crafted, the decision to offer locally made products comes from a desire to place the customer at the centre of the creative process.
“Our ethos is all about offering the best possible experience when co-creating furniture with us and we have found the only way to truly do that is to make our products locally. This gives our customers a significant place in the process of crafting their perfect lounge or bed, as well as allowing us to deliver our products much faster than imports and at a higher quality,” says owner Justin Burden.
The business currently has a product lead time of roughly eight weeks for a fully customised product, which compares to a 26-week wait for an import. “Of course, some people need a lounge right now and aren’t able to wait. For those customers we offer a limited stock range that can be ready in two to three weeks but doesn’t allow you to fully personalise your product as much,” Justin adds.
For Justin, there are many reasons for the appeal of locally made product. Not only do you get something that’s been crafted to your exact specifications (rather than a homogenous product), but the benefit to the community is many-fold. “Even before COVID, we were seeing a generation of customers questioning where things come from. Locally made is also better for the environment and keeps local manufacturing alive with unimaginable ripples of good that spread throughout your local community!”
While the sofa company Plush do stock overseas products (mainly items that are difficult to source here), its Australian made ‘Sofa Boutique’ range allows customers to choose from a huge range of unique designs, configurations and textiles including fabric and leather. With stores across Australia, Plush has noticed there is a huge demand for bespoke sofas – especially from interior designers and customers looking for something unique.
The COVID19 effect has been felt in the business though, with demand outstripping supply. “It’s been a great boost for the industry, but this increased demand, coupled with the COVID restrictions has caused some challenges for all suppliers, both locally and overseas, to keep pace,” says Plush products manager Nicole Absalom, who explains that while buying locally won’t necessarily impact the speed of delivery, it’s certainly great for the economy.
“Buying Australian made, you are helping local businesses and supporting the Australian economy and jobs market which is a great thing. Plush directly employs over 200 staff across Australia and many more indirectly, like the Sofa Boutique team that manufacture in Sydney.”