How are the factories in Vietnam dealing with COVID and how do they see the immediate future?
We talk to Mrs. Le Thi Hong Phuong, owner of 3 factories with a total workspace of over 32,000 m2.
Mrs. Le never had any intentions of working in the furniture trade, she just supported her husband when he opened a small cabinet shop with their life savings. “at the beginning I wanted to support my husband, but I found my passion”
Her factory has grown exponentially from the humble beginnings, now covering 3 sites Mrs. Le has the capacity to manufacture over 600 containers a year, selling Oak, Ash, walnut, and pine products to the European, Asian and Australasian markets.
The COVID pandemic has been the biggest challenge Mrs. Le has ever faced, in the immediate term, with just enough orders and by splitting the shifts she has introduced ‘social distancing’ working arranging across her three factories thus protecting her workforce – a key consideration.
Although Vietnam has not ‘officially’ been badly affected by the virus, she’s concerned for her employees, there’s no such thing as ‘furlough’ in Vietnam so her way to support them through this period is to keep the factories open and making furniture. With stable orders from the Middle East and Australia combined with stockpiling hardware and raw materials, she’s optimistic that she be able to keep everyone employed throughout. That said, there are contingency plans should the worse happen and the factories must close temporarily.
In the medium term, there are concerns about the financial stability of her customers and the potential effects of the inevitable recession that will follow later this and next year. These worries, however, are mitigated by the continuation of the trend for the furniture manufacture to migrate from China and Europe to Vietnam.
Longer-term forecasts are still optimist ‘The export turnover of the world wood industry is more than 150 billion USD per year, but Vietnam has only exported 7 billion USD, obviously, the market is still very large, we’ll survive this year and grow again next’