The local furniture manufacturing industry is slowly dying and Government is being called upon to help revive it before it is too late.
This plight is coming from Jacqueline Clark-Pierce, managing director of Pierce Furniture & Furnishings Ltd, as she delivered remarks during a discussion organised by the African Barbadian business community, especially the manufacturing community, at Regency Cove Hotel.
According to Clark-Pierce, from her point of view as a furniture manufacturer, and a supporter of the Buy Local campaign, there was an urgent need for each Barbadian householder to educate themselves about the significance of buying locally manufactured products.
Most importantly, she said there was a need for Government to rectify the issue of retailers going abroad to buy furnitures and abandoning the local market. She charged that while many businesses were feeling the effects of the economic downturn, the volume of furniture being imported by retailers was one of the factors affecting the local furniture manufacturing sector.
Clark-Pierce explained that over the years, the local furniture manufacturing community also attempted to get their furniture into several markets. However, the efforts proved futile due to several blockages.
A jumpstart of the falling industry is needed, she noted.
“There are only three furniture factories right now in the Spring Garden complex, down there is virtually a ghost town right now. You use to hear the machinery going and sometimes it is so silent, I ask the question what is going on. This is telling me that we are not getting the volume
of work that we use to.
“The stores are bringing in stuff from Asia and all over the world and not buying from us anymore. There are about maybe five manufacturers still selling to the stores, there are not many of us. If you go around and you had to visit most of the remaining furniture factories in Barbados, they would tell you that they don’t sell to the stores,” she said.
She also explained that her business was supported mainly by members of the public who wanted to maintain the presence of indigenous pieces in their homes.
“For the past three years, I have been on my own because my husband passed and I have taken up that mantle and I am trying my utmost best to continue with the seeds that he has sewn.
“And in doing so, it is not without pain and that pain is so intense at times that I have to resort to other brothers in the field to talk because at this time we need somebody to talk to us who will give us a listening air because the people that we expect to be listening to us are not listening to us.”
Meanwhile, veteran businessman Trevor Clarke who organised the discussion was in full agreement with Clark-Pierce. He said that he too, was of the opinion that it was time Government looked into the matter of retail stores importing furniture, contributing to the crippling of the local furniture sector.
“I would hate to think that a government of Barbados in the year 2000 and beyond would have these companies import items that can be better made in Barbados.
“They may say they get them cheaper but . . . we are saying that once the raw material component does not exceed the cost of the finished product, make it locally and keep our people employed with the high wages that they must get,” said Clarke.