Ready-to-assemble or custom-made; large-chain outlets
or small-time retailers, the choices are many for the
customer to choose from. The market is ever expanding
so is the clientele. By Sakshi Vashist
Even with Qatar Census revealing that more than one million nine hundred thousand people reside in Qatar, it is hard to estimate the number of households in this small country on the Arabian Gulf. A home to many expatriates, Qatar has seen an influx of population in last few years. Even natives who travel all around the world finally come back to settle to the place they call their “home”.
But what makes a simple four-walled abode a place to live is its interior — the families living in unison despite their own individuality.
While a master bedroom represents the views and conviction of the nurturers, a kids’ room symbolises the playful tender years. Every member of a family has his or her own taste which is gracefully reflected in the furniture they pick for their rooms.
Not only homes, but every departmental store, bank, school, restaurant, hotel or office has unique interior which caters to specific needs and demands. Racks in use to display types of soups in a store would differ from racks used in the kitchen of a restaurant to store vegetables or racks in a school library. Similarly a manager’s chair would differ from that of a CEO and that of a person sitting in a bar.
With infrastructure growing at an enormous pace, the demand of architects, interior decorators and furniture suppliers has also increased. It not only is a norm to have stylish couches in waiting rooms or open-roof restaurants, but also a symbol of necessity combined with comfort and luxury. With increase in demand, the country has seen an upheaval in number of suppliers too.
The furniture industry in Qatar is balanced by two major types of retailers —the ready-to-assemble furniture (RTA) providers and the made-to-order furniture sellers. Both thrive in the market equally as they cater to different customer segments.
RTA, also known as knock-down furniture or flat-pack furniture is a form of furniture that is purchased in multiple pieces and requires assembly. This generally arrives in a box and contains instructions for the buyer to follow in order to assemble it after purchase. Nowadays few retailers also provide free assistance for assembling — a relief for many buyers.
Flat-pack furniture was first invented by Erie J Sauder in 1951. Gillis Lundgren later developed the idea when he needed to fit a table into his car. According to reports, Lundgren broke the legs off his table so he could fit it in the car and then reassembled the table at home. He then discussed the idea with his employers at IKEA, which then built its entire business around the concept, launching its first piece in 1956. Since its advent, many corporates and home-makers have switched to this convenient variety.
Availability of a large variety of affordable chic and innovative styles in knock-down furniture attracts both small and big budget shoppers. Large chain furniture outlets here in Qatar provide better pricing for the price-conscious shopper, along with a larger selection. There are marketing strategies at play by the stores to create a “shopping experience” where the shopper wants to visit and stay awhile.
Ramesh Nallathambi, General Manager of Homes R Us talks about his customers: “Since we opened in 2004, we have got a great response. Although we see customers belonging from various continents at our outlet, majority of our dedicated buyers are Qataris who look for classic as well as modern designs for bedrooms and living area. The pricing at our store caters to mid- and mid-above class, so we have only a selected profile of visitors.”
Constance Citalan, who has been a Marketing Director in an Apparel and Home Decor Industry explains the mentality of shoppers: “Expats generally rent their home and therefore would rather save on their home furnishings needs and invest in higher quality furniture items when they return to their native countries where their invest is for a long term. Made-to-order furniture is probably a preference for Qataris because they are investing in their permanent households. They would prefer quality over price savings.”
Thus custom-made furniture could be the best decision when people buy furniture piece for their dwelling or workplace which reflects their personality or work ethics. Entrepreneurs, young independent individuals or newly married couples would later take pride in showing off the wood or glass work in their exclusive furniture pieces. Following are the reasons why many choose made-to-order furniture over RTA:
Value for money
Contrary to popular belief, custom-made furniture isn’t that expensive, considering that one gets the exact furniture design that you pay for. Since the furniture is not mass-produced, every customisation job creates each furniture piece which guarantees the quality of the output.
So while you may pay a lot more for a custom-designed dressing table (than buying a standard design), each penny you spend would be worth it. Such furniture provides an unlimited option to satisfy your unique taste. You can design it entirely choosing from the type of materials used, dimensions, design, fabric, colour, thickness of cushion, and added functionality.
Flaunt your panache
Your uniqueness of an individual can be manifested on how you design your home. It can be frustrating when you can’t seem to find the right furniture that matches your style and personality.
So, instead of going from one retail store to another, nowadays people prefer to just contact someone who would save more time and effort. Like Origins, an online e-retailer in Qatar since past 4 years, which guarantees to provide solution to all furniture and decor problems.
Get the furniture that your space needs
Finding the right furniture for a unique space could be a challenge. An odd corner of the room where you want a triangle shaped cabinet. Or converting a section of the hallway to your wash-room into a walk-in closet. Going to the big box store could be futile. So, instead of wasting your time scouting for furniture, you can get a customised job.
Furniture for a very specific need
Many people require a bed with storage capabilities. Customising furniture could be the only answer to what you need. You might have looked all over the place and can’t manage to find furniture that matches your entire home decor. Customised furniture is ideal for complementing present furniture along with colour schemes.
However, there is no such thing as too quick and easy. Customising furniture also requires a bit of patience and co-operation. Alexander Mackay, Managing Director of Origins specifies: “We take 3-4 weeks to deliver an order of the customer. We contact manufacturers from all over the world and get the exact desired piece made for our clients.” They offer a personalised shopping experience for Qataris as well as expats at an affordable cost.
There was a common myth that the natives prefer only classic made-to-order furniture but that is not true anymore. The younger and more enthusiastic generation has an inclination towards modern lifestyle and hence approach retailers which have a European decor.
There has been a great influence of European interior decor in the middle-aged natives and youth. Consequently, the market of interior designers and decorators has also increased considerably over the past few years.
Explains Alexander: “We hire designers in Qatar and also from London to cater to the needs of the people and yet thrive in the market with cleverly segmenting the market and buyers. There are Arabs who want solid wooden framed furniture and there are Asians and Europeans who want a typical type of linen or distinctive shapes of sofas and beds.”
Although the quality of flat-pack furniture can vary widely. Some companies use high quality materials, creating furniture which is meant to last and be attractive. Others use cheaper materials, catering to a demand for low-cost furnishings which is serviceable, but with little aesthetic appeal.
The use of veneers, particle board and plastic fittings is common in cheaper furniture, while higher-end furniture uses higher quality woods and may even be designed to be environmentally friendly.
Designers of flat-pack furniture typically create furnishings that are very easy to mass produce. Most companies also pre-drill holes and do other preparations work so that consumers can fit the pieces of the furniture together with minimal work.
Merchants benefit from selling RTA furniture because furniture that is already assembled tends to be bulky and more expensive to store and to deliver. Since the furniture does not need to be assembled in the factory, ready-to-assemble furniture is also less expensive for the merchant to purchase.
To cater to the people who move frequently, different construction techniques are used by RTA retailers. The furniture is designed to be taken apart again in the event of a move. This is unlike the more solid connections used by made-to-order furniture sellers who ensure that the furniture does not break in day to day use over years to come.
And the connections make it impossible to take the furniture apart again, thus accounting for the sturdy quality. Hence, purchasing RTA furniture is your solution if you have just moved into the country or in a hurry to set up your home or office.
Any walk-in retail shop would help you visualise how your kitchen or office would look like. You can opt to buy one piece of bedside table or the entire design of kids’ room.
With new world famous stores and chains opening up, it is early to predict how will they change the market and trend.
Shrikala Kashyap, Neha Ratti and Reema Venkat, women in their 20s, have been in Doha for more than two decades and use their blog ‘Doha Diaries’ to give their honest reviews of places in Qatar.
“The entry of a world class brand like IKEA is definitely a step up for the furniture industry in Qatar. We have met so many expats who are so excited about the entry of this store and have already purchased a large amount of furniture from them! However, some of the furniture stores in Najma have great furniture for reasonable prices, so we just hope the entry of big giants doesn’t wipe these small stores away,” exclaim the writers of the lifestyle blog.
The retailers who provide exclusive items to their customers claim that their market hold will not be affected by any big-small business.
With Qatari families buying more than one homes, many youngsters becoming independent, a lot of new business ventures and increased inflow of single/married expatriates every year, the representatives of furniture store outlets speak of their stores’ 5-year plan with a tone mixed with confidence in the product and faith in the market.
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