The Slovenia Times

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It was natural for one of the most forested European countries to develop a strong wood processing industry. Sadly, the Slovenian furniture industry is still overcoming the shocking transition from a self-contained market to an internationalised and very competitive one. Slovenian homes with furniture installed at least two decades ago would display a very similar set of cabinets, almost exclusively of domestic brands, many of which are now long-gone. These items were considered solid and reliable with designs perfectly up-to date with western trends. But as companies from abroad came knocking Slovenians accepted their wares with open arms, leaving the domestic industry to either innovate or die.

One of those companies which has not only survived but flourished is Svea, a firm particularly well known for its kitchens. Since it is difficult to compete in the low-end class, they have focused on a middle-upper range of products, offering a complete, "all inclusive" service from consulting and measuring to final installation, all included in the price of the product. Moreover, they offer customised kitchen sets similar to those made by small carpentries but with much stronger technology and knowledge base. The effect of this thorough and long-term branding is that Svea kitchens are now a definitive status symbol among Slovenes. Svea has also conquered foreign markets - including the highly demanding markets of the Netherlands and Belgium - through its cooperation with particular European furniture stores and establishment of 25 of its own boutiques.

Taste in shapes and colours

Svea commercial director Tim Tomažin is proud to say that his company is not only in line with current trends, but also shaping them. When it comes to kitchens, modern designs of clean horizontal lines seem to prevail, despite a rich range of traditionally designed sets. In his opinion, a well developed taste in interior aesthetics typically follows global trends.

Few are better placed to confirm Tomažin's view that Jo Wieden, general manager of Harvey Norman in Slovenia. The company is an Australian one which has now been in Slovenia for some years. Wieden says the only real differences between the two countries relate to climate and living space: "Slovenians enjoy quality and value for money in much the same way as Australians do. "

Furniture choices may depend on climate but of course it's not something which is closely linked to seasonal trends. That means that the effect of sales and special offers is not as drastic as with skirts and shoes. This doesn't mean buyers don't respond to discounts. Harvey Norman gets particularly busy during the half-year clearances.

The Ikea Factor

Bargains are of course the stock-in-trade of Swedish giant Ikea, a brand familiar to anyone who has a young family or has just bought their own place. The firm doesn't yet have a store in Slovenia but its products are still ubiquitous thanks to the number of shops just across the border in Graz, Klagenfurt and Vilesse. These stores attract large numbers of Slovenes, mostly the young, who want their homes to look trendy at a good price - and who don't mind assembling their furniture themselves.

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