Saccaro, a furniture store on the fringes of Miami’s Design District, sells not only Brazilian-crafted furniture but also serves as a showcase for the work of Brazilian designers.
Walking through the Miami store — the first in the United States — and flipping over the tags indicating the designers of chairs crafted from sustainable wood and the Planalto collection, an homage to the curving buildings of Oscar Niemeyer in Brasilia, is like taking a tour of the crème de la crème of Brazilian furniture design.
Most Saccaro furniture is conceived by independent designers who hold the rights to their pieces and are paid royalties.
The family-owned business had its roots in wicker, which for generations had been used to tie grape vines and make baskets and furniture in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.New move
In 1963, Albino Saccaro, the grandson of Italian immigrants, began making the wicker coverings to wrap and protect five-liter wine flagons. By 1970, however, plastic coverings for wine bottles had come into vogue. That prompted a move into furniture making and the Saccaro family hasn’t looked back since.
It now has 30 stores throughout Brazil, stores within stores in smaller Brazilian cities and international distribution.
There was a tradition in Southern Brazil of each craftsman handling a piece from beginning to end, and that emphasis on individual design has continued at the company.
“The strength of our company is design — design, design, design,’’ said Luiz Silva, president of Saccaro USA and master franchise holder for Saccaro stores in the United States. “I would say Saccaro is a furniture designer’s paradise.’’
Silva was a distributor of Saccaro accessories and furniture and sold to wholesalers from a small North Miami showroom. “But we weren’t getting the exposure we wanted,’’ he said. “We decided that to get the brand recognition, we would have to open a Saccaro store.’’
Silva acquired the master U.S. franchise rights and opened his first Saccaro store on North Miami Avenue just over a year ago.
Saccaro, which is based in Caxias do Sul, owns the brands and the manufacturing and is the master franchiser for the Brazilian stores. Welcome in Miami
“Florida, Miami is just a huge open shopping mall. People from all over the world feel welcome here and many of them are just looking for an excuse to come here and visit,’’ Silva said.
The Miami store is one of a new generation of Saccaro concept stores that are designed to be an experience and create a sense of place.Featured Designer
Work by the featured designer of the month is displayed by the door, and the central portion of the store is the atelier stocked with fabric swatches, accessories, wood samples and rugs — including a mosaic crafted from 3,500 small pieces of cowhide. It’s here that customers can customize pieces and view computer models of how the furniture they have selected will look in rooms with the same floor plan and dimensions of their home.
“We can see if a piece is too big for a room before we go back and forth with deliveries,’’ said Silva.
Even though she’s Brazilian, Sandra Orlandi Silva has lived in the United States for the past 30 years and wasn’t familiar with the Saccaro name until recently.
Now the Aventura real estate agent has purchased rugs, tables, vases and other accessories from the store. “They’re contemporary and elegant and the quality is amazing,’’ she said.
Out-of-town buyers represent about 70 percent of Saccaro’s clientele. They range from Europeans, who appreciate the Art Deco and contemporary lines of the furniture, to New Yorkers and predictably Brazilians and other Latin Americans who furnish their second homes in Miami with a brand they know from home.Who’s buying?
“We pretty much follow the patterns of the real estate market, who is buying,’’ said Katia Silva, manager of the showroom and marketing director as well as Silva’s wife.
Luxury condos in major Brazilian cities continue to far outstrip South Florida prices for equivalent units, meaning with their savings Brazilians can afford to decorate their new properties here, spending around 10 percent of the purchase price and still come out ahead, she said.
But the designer pieces at Saccaro come with hefty price tags. Most sofas in the Miami store retail for $3,000 to $4,000 but the two-piece sectional Carrera sofa sells for $14,000. The store also works with wholesalers.
In an interesting international twist, the Silvas also are selling to Brazilians who buy the furniture in Miami and then ship it home. A combination of the strong Brazilian currency, the real
, compared to the U.S. dollar and high local taxes in Brazil actually make it cheaper to buy the furniture here and ship it back to Brazil, said Luiz Silva.
“Brazil has a very complicated, convoluted tax structure,’’ said Silva. “Anytime you do an invoice, there is one tax on top of another. Sometimes these taxes add up to 50 percent of the purchase price. All of a sudden it becomes ridiculous.’’
But when Brazilian products are exported, he said, there is almost no tax on exports.
“We don’t want to hurt anyone’s business in Brazil,” said Silva, “but this is just something that is happening and people are taking advantage of it.’’
Saccaro isn’t the only local business benefitting from the influx of Brazilian buyers. Last year, more Brazilians (634,155) visited Greater Miami for overnight stays than any other international group and they spent $1.345 billion.Brazilian economy
No figures are available yet for Brazilian visitors so far this year, but recent arrival numbers at Miami International Airport indicate Miami’s status as a magnet for foreign visitors endures. MIA’s international arrivals climbed to a record 3.28 million in the first four months of the year, a 10.3 percent increase over the same period in 2011. Currently about 78 direct flights arrive at MIA weekly from Brazil, according to airport officials.
Although the Brazilian economy is slowing, South Florida prices for many consumer products remain lower than in Brazil and are still a big draw for Brazilians.
Businesses from airlines to electronics stores to Macy’s, which is in the midst of a celebration of Brazilian culture and art and is offering a collection of Brazilian-inspired and Brazilian-made products online and at selected stores, are all courting Brazilians.
So far, the Silvas said they are very happy with the first Saccaro store in the United States. “It’s been beyond our expectations, but competition is very tough — plus the fact that our brand wasn’t really known in the United States,’’ said Luiz Silva. “We’re starting to see repeat business and referrals.’’
Among future targets for Saccaro stores, he said, are Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.
Plus, the furniture is starting to make inroads among younger U.S. buyers who appreciate Brazilian design with its emphasis on natural materials and comfort. Americans, he said, got used to living with 18th and 19th century British-style furniture, but now “more and more they’re immersing themselves in contemporary design.’’