Making and selling custom-made tables is a good business providing you can find the correct sales channels.
This business involves the designing and making of tables. These can vary from exotic wood “live edge” or “natural edge” (where the furniture designer or craftsperson incorporates the natural edge of the wood into the design of the piece) to epoxy resin and even a combination of both:
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If you are a talented artisan this is what will make and break this business: getting the sales channels right. The custom furniture supply chain often leaves the manufacturer with the least profits; it is one of those industries where the piece sell for 3 or more times what it was manufactured for, leaving the person who made it with the least profit. So you will often find a guy living in a township but he makes tables that end up selling for R20000 each.
Traditionally, there are a few reasons for this, access to sales channels: the manufacturer sells to a retailer and the retailer makes the bulk of the profit, not because they greedy, well that too, but because high-end furniture is sold in locations where shop rental is a premium and they sometimes takes months to sell. The internet has taken some barriers away enabling you to sell directly from factory. But you may still need distribution. People who buy expensive tables may not want to buy from you, even though it is the exact same table selling in a retail outlet like say Winston Sahd.
Some manufacturers will be willing to take less profit to get their products into retail spaces – especially at high-end malls, and that sometimes makes sense. Let’s say you make a table for R5000 that has a retail value of R10000. Selling for R7000 to a retailer might be a better deal than selling it directly for R8000 as it might take longer to sell.
Providing a retailer on consignment is another thing to look at, but might be prohibitive for small businesses where cash flow is important and an item might take too long to sell.
The Matumi/Mingerhout (Scientific name: Breonadia salicina) tree produces a hard and heavy wood with beautiful yellow to light brown colours, which lends itself to the making of fine furniture.
For furniture making purposes the wood is cut in solid pieces through the diameter of the trunk to be used as unique counter or table tops. It is an example of “live edge” or “natural edge” furniture.
While tables can be made from tree trunks or even railway sleepers Matumi tables sell at a premium.
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Live Edge River Table Copyright John Malecki