From world of rugby to furniture

HE STARTED his furniture business 14 years ago with three rugby injuries, an overdraft of R120000 and heaps of faith. Now his well-known business, Furnworld International, is exporting all over the globe and South Africa, doubling the businesses' turnover every year.

The sometimes controversial Uitenhage businessman Armand du Preez says he pays more in taxes every year than he would have ever made in a career as a professional rugby player and that is the reason why he is sometimes critical of the local government.

Du Preez played rugby for the Junior Springboks, SA Barbarians, Natal, EP and Lions all over the world before three rugby injuries stopped his professional career in its tracks.

"We have to be proactive and pray for our government. I will never emigrate because this is where God planted us to make a living," Du Preez says.

Having started two furniture shops in 2006 in Denver, Colorado, and buying a house there, Du Preez said he is considering closing the American shop and selling his house since the American market is very slow and credit-driven.

"I don't take risks that size, I do not believe in debt. My Uitenhage shop's building is paid-off and we have very few overheads. I spend close to R300000 in advertising every month," Du Preez said.

Stock at his Uitenhage-based warehouse is delivered across South Africa and to neighbouring countries, with local transport contractors. From placing an order, it takes 48 hours to deliver the furniture to all the major cities in South Africa.

This and his dedication to sourcing quality material, Du Preez believes is the reason he is one of the biggest retailers of luxury, affordable leather furniture in South Africa.

"We have orders of between R300000 and R700000 per day country-wide. People fly in from across the country to buy the couches in our range and the Eastern Cape is only about 1% of my sales market," Du Preez said.

The businessman spends most mornings with his factory staff, overseeing the details of creating his exclusive range of leather and ostrich couches. All his designs are original and he sources wood from Uitenhage-based companies.

"I do not use any chip board in my frames.

"We use only Cloud 9 high density foam in all the couches and make use of Klein Karoo ostrich leather and other sources of A-grade leather.

"I have always loved beautiful furniture and my dad had a second-hand shop so this was just the natural business choice for me," Du Preez said.

Du Preez says he has a small profit margin, but a high turnover.

He said when he started his business, he made the mistake of sourcing furniture from everywhere, but soon had an entire room dedicated to complaints.

About a year after opening the shop, he opened the furniture factory – originally based in Port Elizabeth – to create his own, quality furniture.

"When people buy furniture, they expect it to last generations.

"Selling good quality furniture at affordable prices and offering good after-sales service is key to my business success," Du Preez says.

He also specialises in sales and after sales of electronics and computers.

"We start every day of the month in the shop with reading one of the 31 Proverbs in the Bible. This is what has helped my business to prosper – to trust God in everything I do," Du Preez says.