Furniture Makers Face Vietnam Competition

Article excerpt

NEW YORK, Apr. 12 (Reuters) Furniture executives from around the world are knocking at the door of Vietnam, a rapidly emerging supplier of some of the cheapest woodwork exports on the market.

And while Vietnams furniture boom is welcome news for global retailers from the European Union and Japan, who are cashing in on low-priced imports, it could spell more trouble for some US manufacturers.

Indeed, with goods nearly 10 percent cheaper than those made in neighboring China, Vietnam is being courted by US manufacturing and retail executives looking for inexpensive desks, chairs, and household sets made from pine, cajuput or rubber wood.

The socialist republic on the Indochina peninsula and its surging furniture industry has been a cause for concern among other furniture makers, especially those in the United States, where the industry is deteriorating.

American wood-furniture manufacturers, based mainly in the South, have lost more than 30,000 jobs in the last three years, according to the US Department of Labor. The loss is due in large part to a flood of cheap Chinese imports.

With the influx of Vietnamese goods in the last year, furniture makers like St. Louis-based Furniture Brands International Inc. , the largest US furniture manufacturer, and La-ZBoy Inc. , based in Monroe, Michigan, have reason to be worried.

Their products are already losing retail floor space to Chinese goods that typically sell for 30 percent less than US furniture. …