History

The origin of the furniture industry in Canada can be traced to the time the colony was founded, since the first settlers were already making simple and practical furniture. Local carpenters later began making furniture for customers.

The first Canadian furniture-making company was established in 1930 in Berlin, a community near Kitchener, Ontario. The industry grew considerably in the early 19th century, especially in Ontario. There were a few furniture plants in Quebec before 1900, but the rise of the furniture industry in the province basically occurred after the Second World War.

 

QFMA's founding in 1942  

Why create a Quebec association when the Canadian Furniture Manufacturers Association had been in existence since the start of the century? Remember, in 1942, the planet was deeply plunged into a world war, there was a wage and price freeze, and the most skilled labourers were recruited to build submarines and airplanes. Furniture manufacturers got the idea of forming an association in an effort to hold on to the labour force. In doing so, the manufacturers also dealt with labour relations, the wage and price freeze, and problems pertaining to the supply of raw materials, including wood.

After the war came the boom: the baby boom, bungalow boom and furniture boom! The post-war resurgence was beneficial for the industry, to such an extent that, in 1946, the Association already had 50 members! But profit margins remained thin because furniture manufacturing required, and still does today, a lot of manpower.

Furniture of that era was small in size and made in a colonial or traditional style, but it combined style and functionality. Also noteworthy was the fact that manufacturers didn’t hire designers at that time; the furniture was a replica of American and Scandinavian models.

The 1950s  

This era was also marked by major innovations such as the television, 45 rpm records, plastic and rubber, which would change lifestyle and consumption habits. Mass production of furniture and the use of lesser-quality material such as plastic began to occur at the end of this decade. It was also the time of the shift toward simple, so-called “modern” design, without the traditional style etchings and inlays, and the lowering of prices. Furniture imports from the United States reached an alarming rate for the Quebec furniture industry. And it was also during this time period that the first designers were being trained in Quebec schools.

In 1953, the QFMA took its fate into its own hands and incorporated. Member services included legal and labour relations counsel.

In 1954, the QFMA organized a 10-day furniture Show in January at the Showmart, on Berri Street in Montreal. The Show was a success and included a section devoted to chrome kitchen furniture, a popular new arrival.

In 1957, after 15 years of existence, the Association had 110 members, and its activities were mainly related to manpower and labour relations.

The 1960s  

The ‘60s were the years of all the revolutions – quiet and not so quiet ones on the political, economic and social front, as well as from a cultural, scientific and artistic standpoint.

Italian designers were prominent in this era, in terms of fashion as well as furniture. This was also the era of highly graphic pop-art culture that challenged traditions and played up elements of popular culture. Teak-wood furniture was growingly popular with consumers.

Expo 67 left a lasting impression on the province of Quebec, with the building of the subway system and Place Bonaventure, the future site of the furniture show in Montreal! At the time, the QFMA put on a cabinet-making and equipment show called Infotech Canada, but the project was discontinued after two years because of the major financial risk it entailed. 

The 1970s  

The adoption of the metric system, which disrupted our habits and procedures in Canada, was a notable occurrence during this time period, as was the arrival of technological innovations such as the Intel microprocessor, which dramatically changed the business world.

 

In Canada, the '60s and '70s decades were the golden years in the furniture industry, as more than 100,000 people were employed in this industry. It should be noted that, at the time, the Canadian furniture industry was 97% Canadian family owned, both small and medium companies. Automation in the 1970s, combined with a big rise in inflation, accounted for the significant decline in jobs in this era.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Furniture Show was founded in 1972.

The 1980s  

It was an era of upheaval, of boundaries constantly being pushed, notably under Ronald Reagan’s ‘Reaganomics’ and the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the United States. In 1989, reductions in tariffs on furniture ensured years of prosperity for the industry.

It was also the dawn of the High Tech era which put the emphasis on science and home technology: computers came into our lives. Raw materials began to appear in home decor, notably through the use of steel and metal. This led to an even more minimalist design.

The 1990s  

After the personal computer, the Internet revolution arrived in the 1990s. Even designers used technology and new material in their creations. Frank Lloyd Wright change our style of living in our homes by opening up our living spaces and creating the open-space concept.

In 1998, the QFMA offered more services and encouraged its members to band together so it could better manage health and job safety issues. Then, in 1999, the QFMA’s insurance group enabled furniture manufacturers to benefit from a program tailored to their needs and enjoy significant savings in the process.

The 21st century  

Throughout the globe, wireless telephone systems and social networks are taking over our daily lives and redefining our vision of the world, our way of interacting and, especially, our consumption habits or our marketing approach. The QFMA and the Canadian Furniture Show are no exception to these social phenomena and they have also led the way in this direction.

This occurred in 2010 with the launch of Quality Canadian Furniture, which promotes furniture made in Canada and the know-how and leadership of our manufacturers through a campaign and a website which, to date, has attracts more than 250,000 unique visitors yearly.

The industry has been under pressure from various factors since 2002, including the rise of the Canadian dollar, the emergence of products from Asian countries, that have low production costs, along with the 2008-2009 economic and financial crisis, which had a considerable effect on deliveries and exports. Since then, the Canadian industry continues to have a tough time competing with other countries, notably because of its high labour costs; larger sized American companies benefit from a huge production capacity that allows them to generate economies of scale. The slow and sluggish recovery forces the Quebec industry to develop its agility, stay on top of opportunities and continually maintain better control of its cost structures in order to raise its competitiveness. Our manufacturers are faring quite well in the recovery, and that’s largely due to their passion, enthusiasm, and creativity.

From a furniture standpoint, the contemporary style of the 2000s combines influences, trends and new technologies from all over the world, without strictly sticking to a single design philosophy. Current trends include a blend of styles, textures, material and eras, while being mindful of a return to the roots linked to modernity.