American Furniture in Chile

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Re: American Furniture in Chile

Post by jehturner » Wed Sep 23, 2009 11:05 pm

Yes, I think expectations may be changing a bit on the kitchen front. My new 140m^2 house came with a generous-sized kitchen, including a breakfast table, with a door opening to the dining area / living room. There is no space wasted on closets for storing a live-in maid when she's finished cooking either; more like a typical middle-class European or American place. We were quite surprised when we first looked around, but the builder has made hundreds of the houses and they seem rather popular amongst the cuico-minus-1 class.


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Re: American Furniture in Chile

Post by curious » Sat Sep 10, 2011 4:09 pm

admin wrote:Well, a couple of thoughts, and please don't take this the wrong way as I am hoping to save you from a investment train wreck.

Assuming you are producing this stuff in the States, the basic problem is it's too expensive. I don't even know what your prices are, but I can already tell you ( unless you are giving the furniture away ) with a high probability you will have trouble either competing with the really really cheap imports from Asia that are sold at most malls and department stores or with the really cheap (generally low quality) furniture produced in Chile. Don't forget to throw in all the cheap furniture produced in neighboring Latin American countries, and the competition here for furniture would just crush you unless you are basically reselling their furniture already.

Now you might argue that your product is high quality, but the reality is that the market here does not care about quality because the culture really does not care about quality ( speaking of the majority of the market anyway ). They want cheap first, looks second, and quality is the absolutely last thing on anyone's mind. Essentially there is a very very small market for anything that cost over say about a $1000-2000 US (most Chileans likly do not spend over $2000 over 10 years or more on furniture), and people in general do not buy furniture like Americans. They don't for example replace their entire house full of furniture just because they don't match the drapes or they are a couple years old. The portion of the market with money, taste, and desiring to buy high quality furniture is fairly microscopic and also fairly saturated.

We are talking about a country of 15 million people, only 1-2 million would likly be your market (long story about credit, money, affluence, geography), and everyone else is already chasing those 1-2 million customer base that likly spend only about 10-20% of what Americans do on furniture anyway given a similar population and demographics.

Basically, if you are not already selling to big chains such as Wall Mart in the States and can provide big volume at super super low prices, you are going to have a hard time even getting your foot in the door in Chile. Which by the way means also need to get in to Wall Mart (A.K.A Lider) in Chile or one of the other big department store chains that buy by the boat load from Asia.

In general, my take would be that trying to sell furniture in Chile would be likly the worst possible buisness venture someone could undertake.

Many thanks for that useful response, which makes good sense.
I'd like to ask you a similar question from a different point of view.

I currently import and distribute cheap to middle end furniture from the Far East into a European country of 4 million people. I buy directly from cheap factories in inner China (I speak a little Mandarin) and Vietnam which supply Walmart etc..
Furniture is the business I know best so I'm looking at how I could set up as an importer in Chile and do something in the market, better than it is being currently being done right now.

To give you an idea of what I mean, for a typical fabric sofa at one of the bigger stores, I could buy it in China at a fraction of this price and profitably wholesale it to this retailer for less than 1/2 of what they are charging for it.

I doubt all the retailers who supply chinese made furniture in China buy all of the furniture directly themselves. There must be some wholesalers but perhaps they are not particularly professional or well priced?

Do you think there is a market for a company to import very cheap from China/Vietnam/Malaysia and sell to the retailers in Central Chile?

Alternatively, I could buy directly from the Far East and retail myself to take better margin and sell at lower prices, however I prefer wholesale.

I value your opinion from reading from reading your other intelligent posts on this useful forum and look forward to your response.



(post was edited to remove link)

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Re: American Furniture in Chile

Post by El Chupacabra » Sat Sep 10, 2011 5:23 pm

otravers wrote:. There's no market for $6K fridges outside of the US that I'm aware of. .

Try Canada.

It's not uncommon to have your kitchen equiped with high end appliances. (wolf, sub zero, maytag, whirlpool, etc..)
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Re: American Furniture in Chile

Post by otravers » Sat Sep 10, 2011 6:34 pm

Isn't US/Canada just one big market for most intents and purposes?

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Re: American Furniture in Chile

Post by admin » Sat Sep 10, 2011 7:04 pm

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Re: American Furniture in Chile

Post by Another Joe » Sun Sep 11, 2011 1:47 am

admin wrote:In Chile, a kitchen is traditionally viewed as a place for the servants and it is not a place to entertain guest. Out of site out mind space. Thus, why you will almost never see a kitchen in Chile open to the rest of the house.

PUHLEEEEZE, don't tell my wife. I'll never get her on the boat. She just loves her open kitchen, island, etc..
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Re: American Furniture in Chile

Post by FrankPintor » Sun Sep 11, 2011 4:01 am

admin wrote:In Chile, a kitchen is traditionally viewed as a place for the servants and it is not a place to entertain guest. Out of site out mind space. Thus, why you will almost never see a kitchen in Chile open to the rest of the house.
Just been thinking, but out of say 10 houses I've been in in the Valdivia - Lago Ranco region, maybe 2 have had the kitchen out of sight. All the others were either open-plan or separated by some kind of bar-cum-serving-hatch.

In fact the one that I built was doubly unconventional in that the kitchen was open-plan and had no separation to the dining room, but it was also on the 1st (well 2nd for Chileans) floor. This was for to allow more light in the spaces that will normally be used during the day (being in a a city, the ground floor space is surrounded by walls and so on) and was copied from a Dutch design (if you think that Chileans are illogical, how about the Dutch putting the living space on the 1st floor and the bedrooms on the ground floor in an area that is going potentially to flood to 10m?).

The bottom line is that if you're building yourself in Chile you can specify whatever you like to the builder, the devil is going to be in the detail of the execution, not in the layout of the house.
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Re: American Furniture in Chile

Post by Eileen » Mon Sep 12, 2011 6:32 pm

Since this has become the kitchen thread... when we renovated our kitchen, it took extensive arguing to get the contractor use 3/4 inch plywood for the interior construction, and REAL wood for the doors. He just couldn't believe that we would want anything but pressboard. It took even longer to convince him that we actually wanted WIDE baseboard trim in all of the rooms, and not the skimpy 1-2".

As to American made furniture, I am so glad that we moved the casegoods (cabinets, tables, etc.) We had brought some leather chairs, but bought the leather sectional at Rosen. Big Mistake! High price and low quality. Two years later, and it looks ready for the trash heap. The leather was about as thin as wrapping paper. Our Basset and Kittenger leather has survived years of three boys and countless dogs.

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Re: American Furniture in Chile

Post by nenino » Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:15 pm

I know this may be a dead thread, but could not find it anywhere else. Does anyone know of a place to buy more commerical type appliances, than those big dogs at Maigas? I do not need a "beautiful" kitchen, but I need a functional one. I am more the stainless steel work surface type of gal, but I want cooktops, deep fryer, frig, etc. that are workhorses and sturdy enough not to tip over if you blow on them. Any resources out there? I will be in Norte Chico, but trips to Santiago are fine.

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Re: American Furniture in Chile

Post by wendyann » Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:10 am

admin wrote:Gloria very nice house. I like that kind of classic look with those hints of rustic around.

Yea, I thought about the kitchen problem for several years. In building a house in Chile, how do you get the benefits of an American style kitchen that is open and shared, while at the same time maintaining the home value in the Chilean market that demands a hidden kitchen? The best solution I have come up with is big double doors that allow you the flexibility to open up the kitchen when needed or isolate it as needed.
I realize this is an old discussion (and this is my first post here), but as an interior designer I can tell you there are several ways you can make a kitchen go both ways. One major one would be to have a large pass-through that can be closed off with shuttered doors or the like, as well as the doors you have mentioned. You could also do a completely mobile folding wall like the kind of patio doors that open up the entire wall of the house, if you've got the space to slide the panels to. It's also possible to build the whole kitchen so that it completely disappears behind cabinet doors and sliding surfaces that cover the range and sink, etc., although that's not quite the same thing as entirely hiding the kitchen the way most I've seen in the residential photos I've come across in my research on housing.

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Re: American Furniture in Chile

Post by wendyann » Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:37 am

admin wrote: In general, my take would be that trying to sell furniture in Chile would be likly the worst possible buisness venture someone could undertake.
This is really bad news for me because it means that I would be unlikely to be able to find many clients down there for the kind of work I do and quality of goods that I work with. I was beginning to realize this as I've tried to search out furniture and designer resources and haven't found anything even remotely resembling good design, but you've now absolutely confirmed it - and at least part of why. Better to find out now that I'll be having to change occupations if I move there now than later, though, but it does vastly lower the appeal of Chile me <sigh>.

What about craftsmen? Is there anyone capable of doing much more sophisticated and complex work than the plain boxy stuff I've been seeing at Sodimac, etc.? If I were to design my own, are there people who are capable of executing high quality furniture and cabinetry, and at anywhere near a price point that would make sense in the local economy? And would there then be any more of a market for it?

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