This year the Australian International Furniture Fair will be held in conjunction with Decor + Design in Melbourne in July and it’s the perfect opportunity to discover more of what LaForma Australia has to offer the local market.
Lachlan Selwood, National Sales Manager for LaForma Australia says it’s been a little over a year since the Selwood family business, Eccentric Furniture, signed the very first international partnership agreement with Spanish company Julia Grup. Julia Grup is the parent company of LaForma and was established in Barcelona in 1982. “There are four brothers and one non-family member who create the board of directors and ownership of Julia Grup and their surname is Julia,” Selwood explains.
“LaForma provides fashionable living in a floor to ceiling concept that enables our customers, being retailers and designers and trade customers, the tools to create their own Barcelona look as we call it,” Selwood says. “Being able to provide that full product stream right away was very important. Plus it’s all backed by the stringent quality testing that LaForma do.”
The Selwood family purchased their existing wholesale furniture company, Eccentric Furniture, in 2005 and have since established a national warehouse and distribution channels supported by a national sales team. With their understanding of the furniture market in Australia, client needs and consumer expectations of quality, they began to look at ways to add product streams to complement their business. While travelling overseas in 2013 to investigate various furniture companies, they met with the directors of Julia Grup.
“During our conversation it turned out that after a lot of success in Europe and being very well set up in Spain, they were looking for some diversification of their business to go into international markets that are very difficult for them to reach currently,” Selwood explains. Their aim was to find like-minded partners to help them introduce LaForma into new markets including Australia. In November of that year, Eccentric Furniture became the Julia Grup’s first international partner. “No other company quite had the full concept that we were looking for.”
Over the next six months, Selwood says they followed LaForma’s business model and developed the catalogue and the web portal, which is an innovation for the Australian market. They received the initial stock and prepared for the Furnitex trade show which was held in conjunction with Decor + Design in July last year, and where they launched the new range.
“We won the best exhibitor stand for the show in 2014,” he says. “We had a great response and it confirmed our belief that there was a need for a concept like LaForma in Australia that wasn’t being provided. People came and understood the concept and we were able to show the quality and designs. Our business has been growing in the market ever since.”
The Living collection in white lacquered finish and designed by Spanish designer Jordi Dedeu provides functional storage solutions that are precisely detailed with concealed finger grips to hinged panels. Solid oak or walnut and timber veneer trims add warmth. The coordinated pieces and contemporary design are perfect for the residential market and the home office. Selwood says the furniture is designed to offer “fashionable Barcelona living at an affordable price.”
“What we are saying is, we design and develop our collections very personally and there is a lot that goes behind that to ensure we are leading the fashion standards of any market at any time and providing a good quality designer look without the designer price tag.”
LaForma’s in-house designers include Francesc Julia who is also a director of the company, Carles Margarit and Federico Bergamino. The design and development team is mindful of sustainability issues when developing new products. They are constantly working on new collections and new ways to design furniture with a focus on using up-to-date materials and manufacturing techniques.
“Sometimes we call upon resources of well known Spanish designers outside of the company. We will be promoting those designers and having a brief on the designers in our upcoming catalogues,” Selwood says.
At the annual general meeting at LaForma’s head office in Barcelona in early January, the executives were keen to learn about the success of LaForma Australia. “That was a really exciting trip,” Selwood says. “They were very pleased with the success in Australia and certainly our partnership is a big priority for them in expanding their business more globally. They are also having a lot of success in Europe with the e-commerce side of things.”
E-commerce refers to online based selling as opposed to traditional showroom based selling. While LaForma has an existing showroom near their Lynbrook headquarters south-east of Melbourne, there are plans for another showroom closer to the CBD. LaForma also provide clients who have an account with them, with access to an online web portal so they can check stock levels and place orders any day or time of the week. The web portal includes additional information on every product that is stocked in Australia. Information such as full technical documents on each product, assembly instructions and dimensions of every box can be found there.
Selwood says it’s an exciting new concept in Australia with huge benefits to clients in the retail, design and decor sectors. Clients will feel comfortable knowing that they are reserving stock in real time. “It’s very seamless and speeds up the ordering process and helps the retailer to confirm exactly what they want and what they’ve ordered and that they’ve held that stock,” he says.
With well over 3500 products available and several new collections released at Maison & Objet in Paris in January, Selwood says LaForma Australia will undertake due diligence to determine what the best collections are to release at the Australian International Furniture Fair this July.
“We are doing a lot of business in rural areas and the reason being is all over the country there are new estates being built, new homes and new apartments and no matter what the generation, people are looking for fashionable products,” he says. “LaForma is about being fashionable and that includes using a lot of recycled timber pieces, using a lot of materials in different textures and colours and combining it to create the Barcelona look. LaForma is not only about being contemporary and modern.” There are also plans to expand the collection to include upholstered furniture.
More often than not, when you are ready to take the next step in business it’s because you have planned well ahead to prepare for new opportunities. Sometimes if you’re lucky and the timing is right, opportunities can also find you. And when you are in the furniture business, a keen eye for fashionable and stylish design, quality and an understanding of consumer needs and budgets are just some of the necessary ingredients for success.
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