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Market survey of California furniture manufacturers Goudie, Derek


The solid wood sector of the forest products industry in British Columbia has begun to shift its focus away from the low cost manufacturing of commodity products and toward the extraction of higher value from the timber resource. One of the most important constraints to these efforts is the lack of information about markets for value-added wood products. This paper presents the results of an investigation of one such market, the wood furniture industry in California. A survey was mailed to all furniture establishments in the state. The results were compiled from the data provided by 81 respondents and were determined to be representative of the entire furniture industry in California in 1992. More than 88% of furniture manufacturers in California are single plant companies, and just under 50% employ 20 or fewer people. More than 40% of manufacturers have been operating for less than 11 years. Just under 50% of furniture manufacturers spent less than $50,000 on solid wood raw materials. This emphasizes the role played by the small manufacturer. Lumber represents about two-thirds of furniture manufacturer’s expenditures on solid wood; the remaining third is divided between semi finished components, fully-machined components and sub-assemblies. Hardwood species represent 77% of wood volume used; alder is the most popular species accounting for more than 40% of consumption followed by oak at 28% Among softwood species, ponderosa pine is the most popular accounting for just under 50% of consumption Furniture manufacturers in California rely heavily on wholesalers as a source of supply of solid wood. Most manufacturers prefer to deal with between two and four suppliers. Nearly all manufacturers use trucking as the means of inbound transport. The furniture industry in California offers potential as a market into which B.C. solid wood manufacturers can sell higher valued, specialty type wood products. The industry is fragmented and would demand a greater understanding of end-user needs than that which is used to market dimension lumber products in commodity markets. Distribution middlemen, primarily wholesalers, play an important role in supplying raw materials to furniture manufacturers in California. Any attempt to exploit opportunities in this market must begin with research into the current supply strategies and tactics of these middlemen.

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