Italian leather upholstery: Confronting challenges

HIGH POINT — Italian manufacturers of leather upholstery are exposed to the same problems with material and shipping facing manufacturers across the globe. Furniture Today asked producers about their greatest challenges today in serving the U.S. market for leather upholstery and how they’re managing those.

The good news for manufacturers in Italy is that while container prices have increased on Europe-North America shipping lanes — most sources referring to pricing in the upper four to low five digits — they’re nowhere near Asia-North America levels.

“Our challenges have come from our Asia factories, the shutdown in Vietnam and the transportation issues from China, lack of equipment and very high freight rates,” noted Joe Filloy, director of North American Operations for Chateau d’Ax, which has seen business boom for its goods made in Italy.

Steve Lush, president of DiGió Leather referred to price increases for raw materials prices as well as ocean freight rates.

“We’ve been fortunate that the increases we’ve seen have been less than most, and our increase in volume has made our plant more efficient,” he said. “We’ve also invested in technology like laser leather-cutting machines that improve yield. Because of these factors we’ve been able to hold price increases to an absolute minimum.”

Estro Milano’s large volumes and a diversified global supply strategy have helped mitigate impact of raw material costs and periodic supply slowdowns.

“We have been able to overcome this situation and have absorbed most of these extra costs,” said Francesco Monno, international sales and marketing director. “As a matter of fact, we have transferred only a small percentage of these higher costs to the markets.”

The biggest challenges for Incanto Italia involve quick production in the face of very high demand. Special orders account for around 90% of Incanto’s business, which adds additional complexity to getting goods to customers from Italy.

“The very important aspect of managing all of the special orders is also to let the final customer decide all of the features of the sofa, in that way, everyone can customize the product as preferred,” said Export Director Mario Sforza.

Logistics, not production, is MaxDivani’s greatest challenge right now.

“We pride ourselves on keeping a low overhead in North America so our dealers can come straight to the source and buy from the factory with no middle man,” said Keith Mischel, president of MaxDivani Americas. “We handle all of the logistics as a service to our dealers so they only have to pay one invoice, and the product is delivered from Italy to their door.”

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