Vanessa Bernard González: “Extenda and Surmueble share the objective of taking the international business of Andalusian furniture further and further”
She is an agronomist, specialised in Rural Engineering from the University of Cordova, and Health and Safety Technical Expert. She has also completed the Programme for Senior Management of Leading Companies (ADEL) of Instituto San Telmo. Vanessa Bernard González has been, since October 2013, managing director of Extenda.
Since 2000, Bernard has occupied several post of responsibility in the Andalusian public administration, among which are General Direction of Self-Employment; Managing Direction of Andalucía Emprende, Andalusian public foundation, an institution where she also held the position of assistant managing director; Technical Consultant of the Rural Environment Sustainable Development General Direction; Sub-direction of Infrastructures and Rural Development and Head of the Engineering Area of the public company Agricultural and Fishing Development of the Agriculture and Fishing Department of Junta de Andalucía.
Question: What is the connecting link between Extenda and SurMueble?
Answer: Extenda, as a governing body of the Andalusian Government in charge of the development and implementation of the internationalisation policy providing services to facilitate the internationalization of Andalusian companies, and SurMueble have, without doubt, the connecting link of their interest in taking the Andalusian furniture industry as far as possible, increasing the international business of its companies.
SurMueble has become the national showcase for the furniture made in Andalusia. And Extenda, recognizing that meeting point of the sector, puts together proposals that facilitate synergies between the Andalusian employers and the different agents of the international markets we invite.
Q.: Could the momentum and recovery of the sector be observed already in the Ist edition of SurMueble, held last year?
A.: There is a progressive recovery of the Andalusian furniture sector, the sector accounted for an employability rate of around 95% until before the crisis; although this peak has not been reached yet, figures are rising again. Of course, this recovery was reflected in the first edition of SurMueble where there was certainly business volume according to the surveys that were been carried out among manufacturers. That is why most of the exhibitors will put their trust again through their interest in the next edition.
Q.: In what way was Extenda present in the first edition of this trade fair?
A.: In the context of the first edition of SurMueble, which was held last year, we organised a trade mission and invited an international delegation to come to Andalusia. This delegation was formed by buyers from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Algeria, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Belgium, The UK, French, Russia and Mexico, who had meetings with about 20 companies from the Community. As a result of this encounter, more than 300 meetings were held providing different business opportunities.
In addition to that trade mission, Extenda also organised several technical conferences interesting for the sector and we as well showed the challenges and opportunities of on-line marketing and e-commerce in the Habitat sector. And this is why the great national e-commerce platforms Westwing, Portobello Street and Espacio Deco came to the meeting along with us. They pointed out the importance of these sales channels which are gaining more and more importance.
Q.: How will you cooperate in the 2019 edition?
A.: Our cooperation will have a similar design to that of the previous edition. So, we will arrange a new mission with buyers from international markets providing great business opportunities such as the USA, Kazakhstan, United Arab Emirates, France, Russia or Mexico, among others. We will also pay special attention to the markets where Extenda has offices.
Besides, keeping a similar format as that of 2017, Extenda does not want to pass up the opportunity to inform and train the Andalusian companies in key aspects of the business, which require specific attention today. In 2019, we will organise a conference on the importance of branding, and the use of product images in the Habitat’s digital environment, especially on Instagram, where specialist consultants will participate showing us how to take maximum advantage of these viral sales elements.
Q.: How do you think you participation in SURMUEBLE 2019 can influence companies?
A.: To us, SurMueble represents the meeting point of the Andalusian furniture sector with national distribution, but is can also become a strong reaction for the Andalusian companies at international level. We bring the international closer in a way that Andalusian companies are offered to meet up with importers and buyers from more than fourteen international markets with the advantage of playing at home. Therefore it is a biennial appointment you can’t miss.
Q.: What are the international missions that Extenda is carrying out abroad for the furniture sector?
R.: Apart from the activities in the framework of SurMueble, we also incentivise the participation of Andalusian furniture brands in the most prestigious trade fairs of the sector, mainly in Europe as France, Italy and Germany are the most popular markets and a reference in the sector.
Besides, Extenda is expanding Habitat companies’ vision because we are especially encouraging their inclusion into the great Contract projects. Due to that, as well as facilitating the networking meetings in Andalusia, we carry out missions in other markets, above all in Latin America, where there are big opportunities as the cultural affinity and the language help the companies find natural markets where to be present, either by providing products or decorating hotels and restaurants. Mexico, Dominican Republic, Panama, Costa Rica, etc. are markets offering great Contract business opportunities due to their high development in tourism.
Q.: What are the strengths of the Andalusian industry in the international market?
A.: Andalusia has several strengths. One of them is, without doubt, the quality of the product. We have the proper mix of innovation and expert workforce, which gives important integrity to the final product. This makes the quality-price ratio of the product be highly appreciated in the international markets.
Another strength is the good international perception of the furniture made in Spain, which makes international markets receptive about our product. And just to name other strengths, we can also point at the existence of a strong furniture auxiliary industry in our Community; the flexibility of the productive and commercial systems of our companies, and their capacity to adapt to meet the demand.
Q.: According to data about the last few years, how have the Andalusian companies of this sector evolved in their internationalisation?
A.: Andalusia has been the third exporting Community in Spain for more than ten years, after outdoing Madrid in the ranking. And we can also point out that throughout the decade sales have been growing at a very significant rate, specifically from 2009 to 2017 the rise has been 59%.
This trend is reinforced even more in 2018 because there has been an increase of 21.3% in the Andalusian furniture exports to date (January-August is the latest available data), reaching 100 million euros and so the exportation pace is maintained. Besides, there have been as many exporting companies in this period as in the whole of 2017, up to 226 as opposed to 228 the previous year, which shows that companies are consolidating the activity because a company must be exporting at least for four years in succession to reach this ‘category’.
Q.: What have been the main destinations of Andalusian furniture exports?
A.: In the first eight months of the year, France, Kuwait, Portugal, Morocco and the UK have been the best clients for the Andalusian furniture. But other European and Asian destinations such as Germany or Qatar have a leading role among the ten most important countries for Andalusia.
Q.: What has been the benefit for those companies that have taken the leap to the international market?
A.: The companies that become international diversify their target markets, something vital to reduce risks and be competitive in today’s global economy. That exposure to international competitors makes them more efficient and stronger also in the national market and, in general terms, it improves the quantity and quality of the employment that they generate. Besides, we must not forget the important role played by internationalised companies throughout the crisis in supporting the economy and employment in Spain and Andalusia.
In Extenda, we are convinced that internationalisation will remain a basic pillar of our economy and a driver for growth in Andalusia because not only the companies but also the territories with an economy that does not look outward are seriously compromising their viability.
Q.: How does Extenda help companies attain that internationalisation process?
A.: Extenda is the entity of the Andalusian government in charge of developing and implementing the internationalisation policy designed by the Department of Knowledge, Research and University of the Junta de Andalucía through the 5th Andalusian Economy Internationalisation Plan Horizonte 2020. In essence, we offer key services covering all the roadmap of a company’s internationalisation process. Above all, to small enterprises which do not have enough scale of business to have an internationalisation section and Extenda provides them with that scale, so becoming the appropriate tool for SME’s and micro-SME’s to go abroad. Let’s not forget that more than 95% of Andalusian companies belong to that category.
We offer various services, from training and informative actions aiming at strengthening the internationalization human capital, to specialised consultancy activities. What is more, regarding promotion, we develop a vast programme every year focused on Andalusia’s main sub-sectors.
Broadly speaking, Extenda provides services every year to a number equivalent to three out of four regular exporting companies in Andalusia or one out of six of all Andalusian exporting enterprises, which shows that we are a useful tool for the companies throughout their internationalization process.
Q.: What are the key elements to achieve expansion and promote the sector’s business abroad and how can Extenda contribute to that?
A.: The Andalusian furniture must take steps aiming at increasing its international business even more, so it must strive to meet what the clients want in each country by designing specific products for them and offering them in the way international business is carried out today. To that purpose, companies can rely on the tools offered by Extenda such as our annual promotion programme for the sector, the support given to our Network Abroad covering 49 markets, or the many services we offer to facilitate the international development of a company.
Another aspect we drive from Extenda is digital progress, specifically in e-commerce, which contributes to optimising the competitive strength of companies in this globally connected market through a digital internationalisation plan. We also work on improving the brand image of the companies with a programme that we dedicate exclusively to this objective and must be reinforced with more marketing actions, something that can also be applied to furniture companies. This aspect, as we mentioned before, will be reflected on the actions planned for SurMueble 2019.
THE FURNITURE KEEPS MOVING in 5 tips
|*One product: the multipurpose furniture, the curved line.|
|*One style: Art Deco.|
|*One material: terrazzo applied to furniture.|
|*One space: eco-friendly.|
|*One innovation: the return to nature, natural fabrics, organic materials.