When A. Garcia Crafts initially diversified into home furnishing over a decade ago, 80 percent of its revenues was coming from exports. These days, the number is down to 60 percent because of increasing local demand.
Andy Garcia, the company’s marketing and product development director and son of founder Alex Garcia, attributes the development to the real-estate boom.
And since Pampanga-based A. Garcia Crafts (www.agraciacrafts.com) specializes in “classic contemporary” furniture pieces designed by Dem Bitantes, it answers a barely met need for modern home items meant for outdoor and semi-outdoor spaces.
Its unique positioning jives with one of the Philippine International Furniture Show’s (March 13-16, SMX Convention Center) thrusts of focusing on outdoor furniture.
“Classic contemporary pieces combine timeless shapes with a number of twists in the form of materials, combinations and techniques,” said Garcia.
A perfect example is A. Garcia Crafts’ award-winning Pamela chair, which won product of the year in an earlier edition of Manila FAME.
The so-called wire chair is actually made of a network of weather-resistant galvanized metal and comes in a number of eye-catching colors such as red, tangerine, apple green and canary yellow.
“The 60:40 ratio is in terms of value,” said Garcia. “Volume-wise, the number of items we produce for the global market is still much bigger.”
Contrary to conventional wisdom, exported products aren’t necessarily more expensive than items meant for the local market. Since competition is tougher abroad, A. Garcia Crafts tries to lower its prices to capture a bigger market.
That’s not the case locally since a growing number of rich Filipinos are willing to spend on furniture pieces they fancy. This led A. Garcia Crafts to launch a new brand called +teak (pronounced “plus teak”), which combines impervious teak wood from Thailand with other hardy materials like woven plastic.
“Many homeowners these days have a budget for outdoor furniture,” said Garcia. “When it comes to condo living, people combine woven, semi-outdoor items with their fully upholstered furniture pieces.”
As far as the home scene is concerned, the “matchy-matchy” aesthetic is out, he added. In its place is a mix-and-match approach that brands like +teak tries to cater to.
This instinct to latch on to trends and quickly respond to external forces has served A. Garcia Crafts well. When it opened for business in 1995 after years as a subcontractor for other furniture companies in Pampanga, it exported mainly garden accessories like pots, planters and statues.
Less than five years later, China and India started flooding the market with similar products at much lower prices. Since it was impossible for it to match their competitors’ prices without going out of business, the company, under the elder Garcia’s direction, decided to diversify by producing outdoor and semi-outdoor furniture.
“We have 60 in-house employees involved in production,” said Garcia. “An additional 30 people from three subcontractors are primarily involved in making wood and metal.”
Garcia, a biology graduate, was set to enroll in medicine until he decided to join his father and his team in an international furniture show in Singapore in 2002.
“It was my gap year after premed,” he recalled. “Since I had nothing to do, I became more active in the family business. Before that I had little interest in getting involved directly. I enjoyed the initial experience so much that I decided not to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor.”
The company is represented abroad by such names as Palecek, a dealer of high-end furniture pieces in the East Coast, and Gold West in Australia. Its products are also sold in the Netherlands, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand.
A. Garcia Crafts’ representative in Thailand is also a furniture manufacturer. Once a deal was struck between him and the company at a furniture show abroad, the
client built a showroom in Bangkok to exclusively showcase the Garcia family’s products.
Apart from competition, one of A. Garcia Crafts’ biggest challenges abroad is the proliferation of counterfeit and me-too products from China and Indonesia.
“But our quality and finishing set us apart,” said Garcia. “No matter how hard they try, they can’t fully capture the look and durability of our furniture pieces.”
These days, local clients composed mostly of interior designers and occasional homeowners have to travel from Manila to A. Garcia Crafts’ showroom in Santo Tomas, Pampanga, to shop for its latest products. They will soon have a choice, as one of the company’s priorities is to put up a showroom in Manila.