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Local Furniture Maker Builds Profitable Business

6th JULY 2004

Local Furniture Maker Builds Profitable
Business From Humble Beginnings

From humble beginnings panel producer and furniture maker Criterion Group Limited has built an internationally competitive business that would make any entrepreneur envious.

Auckland-based Criterion Group Limited, which turns 40 this year, has increased its annual consolidated turnover by 100% in the past six years to an excess of $60 million with consolidated annual activity now in excess of $80 million per annum.

Not content with its existing business base, Criterion aims to double the size and value of its business again within the next five years.

Not bad for a company that was born in the basement of university student, Walter Smaill’s home back in the mid sixties. Wally’s brother Brian joined him in the business within two years of start up and they combined their vision to create the business that exists today.

Criterion Group Limited’s chief executive officer, Laurie Margrain, says Wally Smaill and his brother Brian, are still involved in the business, which employs 350 staff across Australasia, as executive directors.

“It is exciting to have reached our 40th year and still have the original founders and visionaries supporting and nurturing the company. Thanks to their leadership and direction, we are now the biggest manufacturer of flat-pack furniture in Australasia. In the past 12 months we have increased exports to the USA by over $4 million despite a strong Kiwi dollar, hugely increased competition from Asia-based companies and a local political environment that doesn’t appear to really encourage local business. Particularly the all important exporters.”

To achieve its business goals, Criterion has invested $14 million in new plant, technology and manufacturing facilities in Auckland over the past four years. This has helped create the most automated and efficient plant of its type in Australasia.

From its East Tamaki plant, Criterion now manufacturers around 2000 complete pieces of furniture a day and exports around 600 containers a year to Australia, North America and Asia. Exports and offshore revenues account for 80% of total revenue. The smaller but very efficient Sydney plant is the dominant producer in Australia of product for the burgeoning home entertainment market.

Mr Margrain says Criterion will utilise its sustainable competitive advantage to further grow the business.

“We have embarked upon a strategy of growing the business and we’re focused on encouraging our people to constantly innovate and improve the design, technology, processes, marketing, distribution and service of our panel products. Our goal is to create satisfied Criterion customers in every home and workplace in Australasia and select international markets.”

The lifestyle furniture market continues to be Criterion’s prime focus thanks to support from major retailers in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, USA and other Pacific region areas.

Locally Criterion home and office furniture can be found in all major retailers throughout the country. The company also produces furniture for Freedom Furniture in New Zealand and Australia as well as substantial volumes of TV cabinets for all major brands. Criterion Group Limited also recently established a kitchen division aimed at the growing domestic market.

Mr Margrain says innovation and cutting-edge design are central to Criterion’s success and the fact the company has turned 40, and is in such good health, is testament to the skills and abilities of all Criterion staff.


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