Conforama, the largest furniture store network in France and second largest in the world after Ikea, purchased furniture to the tune of 30 million euros from Romanian plants last year. This year it plans to increase its purchases to over 55 million euros.
With the aim of purchasing at the lowest prices possible, major European furniture retailers are buying in huge volumes from Romanian suppliers. Romanian furniture production last year was worth 1.1 billion euros, with exports amounting to 830 million euros.
Representatives from the Conforama branch say demand has increased strongly. "At the moment, we have around 15 suppliers here, but demand is quite high so annual deliveries could even reach 100 million euros," said Veronica Burlica, the general manager of IHTM Romania, a subsidiary of the acquisition arm of Conforama (IHTM). In Romania Conforama buys furniture, furnishings and home textiles.
Ikea, the world's largest furniture retailer, has over 40 suppliers in Romania as well as its own plant, from which it supplies its stores with furniture worth close to 60 million euros annually.
Purchased at relatively low prices in Romania, the products are then sold at double and even triple the price in the stores.
Conforama's most important suppliers are Groupe Parisot, Elvila, BWH (Piatra-Neamt), Romstilex (Ramnicu Valcea) and Montana (Campeni).
The company is part of the Pinault Printemps Redoute (PPR) conglomerate, which also includes the luxury division Gucci Group and last year had a global turnover in excess of 3.1 billion euros. Conforama has over 200 stores in Europe, of which 150 are in France. In Eastern Europe it has three stores, which are all in Poland.
"The Conforama management has also considered opening a store in Romania, but has decided to take this step after Romania joins the European Union," said Burlica. She said the French network usually opens stores in Latin countries due to similar tastes.
The concept of a Conforama store is based on a highly varied range of products sold at accessible prices. Unlike Ikea, however, Conforama does not invest in production and does not have its own plant. It buys its products from suppliers all over the world by picking the most attractive offer.
Conforama's Romania office coordinates their acquisition activities for Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and the Republic of Moldova.
"We have chosen Romania as a centre because it is the largest supplier in the region for Conforama stores. Well before this branch was set up, Conforama was buying furniture for 20 million euros a year through importers," said Burlica.