Latin America Reports

Mexican furniture sales attract Comex, Sayerlack

By Charles W. Thurston | July 14, 2009

Comex and Sayerlack form a JV to serve the Mexican furniture coatings industry.

Growing sales of Mexican-made furniture both in Mexico and the U.S. may bode well for paint and coatings companies targeting the segment like Grupo Comex and Renner Sayerlack. U.S. imports of furniture were worth more than $22 billion last year, and cost is king in the still-depressed U.S. furniture market.

This mix of conditions seems to be working for Mexican domestic goods giant Grupo Famsa, which reported a first-quarter 2009 total sales jump of 43% in peso terms to an equivalent of about $85 million. The chain operates 351 stores in Mexico and 39 in the U.S., within which furniture accounts for approximately 20% of total sales in Mexico and approximately 35% of sales in the U.S. stores.

Mexican furniture manufacturing was a rising target for some paint and coatings manufacturers last year. In November, Mexico-based Comex and Brazil-based Sayerlack formed a joint venture based in Mexico City to serve the estimated $170 million Mexican furniture coatings industry, with plans to begin operations during first-quarter 2009. While Comex already had a strong position in the U.S. market through investments in regional paint companies under Professional Paint Inc., Sayerlack only operated one distribution center in the U.S. in North Carolina.

With sales estimated in the $179 million range, Renner Sayerlack claims to control about 50% of the Brazilian wood finishing market, as the largest player in the segment in Latin America. The company's primary wood finishes manufacturing facility is in Cajamar, Sao Paulo state, and it operates another in Minerbio, Italy. Two years ago, PPG acquired the architectural and industrial lines of Renner.

Comex, which has sales well over $1 billion and is ranked as the fourth largest manufacturer in North America, is more known for architectural paint. Comex operates a network of 3,000 sales points in Mexico through its own Ferreteras Calzada and through third-party retail chains. Last year, the company announced plans to brand 27 stores in Jalisco in a big-box format. Comex's latest plant, in Quertaro, cost between $40-50 million, according to the companies' estimate at the beginning of construction in 2007.

In February of this year, Comex opened a Visual Color Evaluation Lab, especially designed to evaluate the color of its paints on surfaces exposed to controlled lighting conditions and different observation angles. Comex's U.S. regional network of chains are known for unique regional formulations; these include Color Wheel, Frazee, Kwal and Parker Paint. The company also owns General Paint in Canada.

Mexican furniture sales are expected to rise significantly in the U.S. as Latino demographic growth continues. Famsa sales by U.S. state last year came from California with 54% of the total, from Texas with 38%, from Arizona with five percent and from Nevada, with two percent. The company now has more than 40 stores in two dozen U.S. cities. Over the past year, Famsa bought out the La Canasta chain, with 12 stores ranging from Anaheim, CA to Plano, TX. Famsa operates its own credit system for time payment purchases with low interest rates.