Panels & Furniture Asia Sep/Oct 2018

September / October 2018 • Issue 5 • PANELS & FURNITURE ASIA 28 FURNITURE MANUFACTURING HUMBLE AND HIGH- REACHING, LAM VIET DOES NOT SHY AWAY FROM RISKS A supplier of high-end furniture, Lam Viet is not afraid to forge its own path in this time of change in Vietnam’s furniture industry. Mr Nguyen Liem, Chairman and Director of Lam Viet, in his furniture factory M r Nguyen Liem, Chairman and Director of Lam Viet, is a humble, yet opinionated man. Dynamic and iron-willed, he established the company in 2002, and, after teaching himself how to read and write English, quickly expanded operations, exporting all his products to high-end stores in the United States and Europe. “We export 100 per cent of our products – 60 per cent goes to the United States, and the remaining 40 per cent to Europe,” he said. “We may expand to new markets in the future, but not yet as we are at our full capacity.” Originally, Lam Viet only specialised in outdoor furniture and got all their products approved by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). But as the outdoor furniture market experienced – and still experiences – high and low seasons, the company shifted some of their focus to indoor furniture, and presently specialises in both indoor and outdoor furniture. “For outdoor furniture, we use teak and acacia. For indoor furniture, we use oak, acacia, pine, and other species as well. But all our materials are FSC approved,” Mr Liem said. “We import the oak from Europe and the United States, most of our teak are from Central America, and we source acacia domestically.” THE COMPANY With 1,200 employees and a yearly revenue of US$25 million, Lam Viet has been producing high-end furniture in its sprawling 60,000sqm establishment since 2002. “I have wanted tomake high-end furniture since day one. We cannot do low-end furniture because we use teak, and teak is expensive,” Mr Liem explained. “There was some difficulties in 2008 and 2009 during the financial crisis, and at that time, we had to find other customers who were not high-end and were maybe medium- high or medium-low. But now, we are back to making high-end furniture.” Today, Lam Viet exports their products to some of the most expensive hardware stores in the United States, including Restoration Hardware and Four Hands. CHALLENGES Like many companies, Lam Viet faces a labour shortage and rising labour costs even as customers continue to pursue high quality products at lower prices. “Over the past two years, we have been changing and restructuring, and we have also been trying to cut down on customers while also aiming for a higher volume of orders. We are doing everything we can now, investing around five per cent of