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ICONS A HISTORY of AUSTRALIAN FURNITURE MANUFACTURERS


ICONS: A HISTORY OF AUSTRALIAN FURNITURE MANUFACTURERS

MOR AN : A COMPANY SHAP ED FOR COMFORT

Moran is the furniture brand that brings to mind images

John Moran OAM founded Moran Furniture when

of beautifully furnished rooms for half of Australia’s

he was just 25 years old. It was 1963 and John had a

population. Research uncovered this fact. Moran, a

vision. It wasn’t just to have his own furniture factory,

household name, brand leader and international supplier

his intentions were deeper: John wanted to produce high

of quality, upholstered furniture came to this admirable

quality furniture with true comfort that most people

prominence from a standing start.

could afford.

The story of the company’s growth can be traced back

His motivation was to right what he saw as a social

to founder John Moran’s true passion for furniture

injustice. John thought it unfair that the average wage

excellence, his leadership and entrepreneurial

earner couldn’t afford good furniture and true comfort.

motivation. The story starts in his youth.

His ambition was to make the best but at a price for

John Moran at the start of his business with the small team of artisans that started it all in a small factory.


MORAN: A COMPANY SHAPED FOR COMFORT

The showroom was designed for buyers from retail outlets, consumers were welcome to browse then they were directed to a retailer. Moran did not compete with its own customers. Supplying department stores and leading specialist retailers was growing the company, but John saw a new, untapped channel, supplying custom built furniture for commercial projects. So, in 1979 Moran Contract was established to produce exclusive models to architect and interior designer specifications. Contract was a great success and went on to fill orders The Moran team grew and grew to become

for the most prestigious interiors in Australia including

hundreds of employees. This image was

hotels, offices, theatres, parliament house, embassies

used on a Christmas card, reinforcing the

overseas and even private planes and yachts for

team aspect of the business.

celebrities. James Moran, John’s son, joined the company and took over the management of Contract, which went from strength to strength.

In 1994, part of the Moran factory complex burnt to the ground.

everyone. John hated waste and, as cheap furniture didn’t last, for him, manufacturing second rate wasn’t an option. He was into sustainability before the practice had a name. Starting from scratch in a modest garage, John had complete confidence that he was on the right path. It wasn’t long before he moved his business into a factory building. He was not only an excellent craftsman but his belief in his products made him a top salesman and soon buyers from department stores were regulars at Moran Furniture placing their orders. Weir Street in Tooronga, a central location in Melbourne, soon became known as the Moran street. As the orders from retailers rolled in the company grew and, gradually, Moran Furniture took over factory buildings on both sides of the road. A showroom was also opened alongside, where stylish sofas and beautiful chairs showed off the breadth of Moran’s offerings.


ICONS: A HISTORY OF AUSTRALIAN FURNITURE MANUFACTURERS

As president of the Furniture Industry Association of Australia (Vic/Tas) John was closely involved with the Furnitex exhibition and met with the official guests. Here he is pictured with FIAA CEO Graeme Cock, Graham Waterson and Terry Bracks, wife of the then Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks.

The orders for Moran Contract were huge, the company

It was quite a thrill to have the furniture back in the

secured Australia’s major projects including Crown Casino

factory and to see, over and over, how the high quality

in Melbourne where 4000 pieces of upholstery were ordered

construction was good as new.

and ranged from gaming stools to high roller furnishings to fitting out the VIP suites in the hotel. All completed and

In a brilliant marketing move, to take commercial

delivered and on time for the opening. The Sydney casino

advantage of the longevity of the products, in 1982

ordered around 3000 pieces.

Moran invented the first furniture guarantee in Australia. It was an innovative move, the ultimate

Around this time the Moran Research and Development

declaration that John Moran stood behind every one

unit was created to develop the many new models that

of his products. The warranty gave Moran a powerful

were being offered, refine furniture construction and work

marketing edge, now the company wasn’t distant from

with specifiers to bring to life their unique concepts.

the consumer but there was someone at customer service to look after any concern or query.

The Contract division also looked after a custom re-upholstery service for residential and commercial needs. It was now 16 years since the Moran brand was launched and if the furniture required new covers,

Moran was the first furniture company to sell aspiration

Moran’s tradesmen were the most appropriate to refresh

through the interiors shots. The styling of the imagery

the furniture they had built.

reflected the time, luxury delivered by great upholstery.


MORAN: A COMPANY SHAPED FOR COMFORT

Around 1984 Moran started to export furniture. This expansion overseas proved to be an important strategy as the demand for Moran in New Zealand South East Asia grew. It was an unusually progressive move but the quality and reputation cemented Moran’s place in overseas markets. Moran was already thinking about ‘global manufacture’ and established a licensed factory in Christchurch to manufacture Moran exclusively for the New Zealand market. This continued until mid 2000s when tariffs between New Zealand and Australia were dropped and NZ became an export market with a Moran re-sellers network across both islands. The Research and Development unit had been working

The high manufacturing quality started with the

on the most viable way to include expensive hand-made

construction and included the most perfect fabric

manufacturing techniques into mass produced furniture.

matching.

Moran was the first company to incorporate spring cell seating in the mid 1980s. Never resting on their laurels, a few years later Moran was the first manufacturer to reinvent motion furniture in Australia. Moran developed a relationship with Action

The ongoing work on increasing the comfort of Moran

Lane, the world’s second largest manufacturer of recliner

furniture reached a new high when in the early 1990s,

mechanisms. The Moran Recliner range was developed

Moran was the first to use the eight-way hand tied

to huge consumer acclaim. The Spoiler was the first on

process in mass production. Moran was now the ultimate

the market and remains popular to this day.

in luxury furniture. Clever marketing educated the retailers and consumers on the Moran difference and Moran’s essential qualities for comfort and long life performance.

Moran was the most prolific chesterfield

The kiln dried hardwood necessary to withstand climatic

manufacturer in Australia.

variations, tempered steel memory springs to ensure the base delivers healthy, body correct support allowing muscles to genuinely relax. Moran fabrics and leathers were sourced from the world’s best mills and tanneries. The product design was just right and business was booming when the worst event for the manufacturer occurred in 1994 – one of the buildings in the Moran compound was razed in a massive factory fire. John made the news when he kept all his staff on the payroll during the re-location and establishment of new premises even though they were not able to work and his loyalty to his staff was returned by them.


ICONS: A HISTORY OF AUSTRALIAN FURNITURE MANUFACTURERS

Always on the fashion pace, Moran design was always in tune with the directional modern market segment as well as the traditional.

The new Noble Park plant on Melbourne’s outskirts

The awards started coming. John was recognized in

eventually incorporated state-of-the-art technology and

2001with the Medal of the Order of Australia for his

proved to be an excellent manufacturing, distribution,

service to the furniture industry particularly in manufacture

customer service and administration centre. The plant

and training and to the community in general.

grew to become the largest furniture manufacturing site in South East Asia.

In 2001and 2003 Moran Furniture was recognized with the Prime Minister’s Employer of the Year award. In 2002

The factory was impressive, vast and light with the many

Moran won the Exporter of the Year award recognizing

trades working side by side to fulfill customer orders.

all aspects of product and business excellence.

The finished stock was wrapped and stored waiting for the Moran branded semi trailers to deliver the beautiful

Market research showed that five out of 10 people knew

furniture all around Australia.

the Moran brand. The high profile was the result of the massive penetration of Moran into Australian homes.

The volume produced was extraordinary: for example,

John said he believed the brand’s success was a result of

just in the chesterfield category alone, Moran had the

word of mouth praise.

market cornered. As Australia’s biggest manufacturer of the traditional deep buttoned sofas, the company built around 4000 each year. A sideline was launched around this time: Moran Home offered a collection of after market products and consumables to enhance the Moran owners’ experience. The products ranged from Moran branded leather cleaners to feathers to bolster feather filled cushions and even castors.

As contemporary styles became more fashionable, Moran advertising became slicker and sleeker with the most prestigious photographers pushing the boundaries.


MORAN: A COMPANY SHAPED FOR COMFORT

Customer referrals were well supported by Moran’s

There were now around 70 upholstered furniture

use of innovative marketing techniques with consistent

designs, all built according to the world’s best practice.

and prominent promotion included booking the inside

Five ranges offered Moran comfort for any decorating

covers of leading homemaker magazines. John featured

need. Classics designs included elegant, traditional

prominently so the brand had a human face. Moran’s

settees and chairs, often with round arms and eight-way

desirability was intensified when the most popular game

hand tied and spring cell construction. The Concept

shows had contestants battle to win a Moran piece. High

range was highly contemporary, often modular with

quality, glossy catalogues were printed showing Moran in

steel construction and sleek lines. Action furniture was

the most aspirational contexts and television advertising

premium, luxury motion furniture including home-

brought the brand right into the living room.

theatre seating. Private Label manufacturing provided custom designs for home brand customers.

At this time, Moran was exporting 10% of product from the Melbourne plant. Prestige of the Moran brand

Once again, in 2004 Moran was named the FIAA

grew in Asia when the Prime Minister of Singapore

Exporter of the year with showrooms and sales now in

and his son bought several pieces. Moran had 10 outlets

Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, Hong

across Asia; four in Singapore, two in Malaysia, one in

Kong, Taiwan, New Zealand and UAE. The retailers

Jakarta. In Hong Kong Moran had a long and successful

accredited to feature the Moran range were market

relationship as principle furniture supplier to Banyan

leaders in their respective territories.

Tree’s three stores (later re-branded as Indigo Living). Banyan Tree established a Moran Gallery store right

By 2006 Moran had produced a million pieces of

in the middle of the Hong Kong high-end shopping

furniture and pioneered export into nine countries.

precinct alongside the world’s leading fashion brands.

The design offer included over 150 styles with an equal balance of Classic and Contemporary looks.

John Moran passed away unexpectedly in 2003 aged 65. However, his inspiration and vision continued through

Contract continued to be an extremely successful volume

his staff in his absence.

supplier of custom designed commercial furniture.

When 2004 rolled around, Moran was producing 200

Moran Furniture has become an iconic brand because

upholstered pieces per day in Melbourne. The company

it kept its promise to deliver true, luxurious comfort and

became Australia’s largest fully vertically integrated

longevity; that Moran pieces are now heirlooms says it

upholstery manufacturer, producing the majority of its

all. From a one man operation in a garage to become a

own component parts.

famous global supplier is a unique achievement.

John Moran was very handson in the manufacturing and marketing of the product and was enthusiastically involved with every detail.


ICONS 1: Moran