* Cecilia Pisa, senior partner CSIL Light Industry Study Center - Milan for market analysis and forecasting scenarios in the furniture sector
For the furniture sector, 2020 was a complex and surprising year at the same time. The sector obviously showed the disruptive effects of the containment measures due to Covid-19, both on the demand and supply side, but overall the year ended with a better result than initially expected.
Nel 2020, sia le vendite sui mercati esteri che la domanda interna di mobili hanno registrato una diminuzione di poco superiore al -10% in termini reali. Questo, tenuto conto dell’interruzione totale delle attività nei primi mesi seguiti allo scoppio della pandemia (con conseguente crollo dei ricavi), può essere considerato un buon risultato, anche rispetto ad altri paesi europei che hanno registrato flessioni più consistenti.
In the first half of 2020 there was a significant decline in sales on the domestic market with a fall of more than -25%, resulting from the decline in household income and the reduction in financial wealth. In the third quarter of 2020, however, with the reopening and resumption of activities following the first months of the lockdown, the economic data began to show a rebound which then translated into a rapid rise in orders and turnover for the Italian industry. furniture, which, at least for products intended for the home, has allowed most companies to stem, even if not completely compensate, the losses of the first part of the year.
It should be emphasized that this result is the synthesis of very different trends in terms of company turnover. Alongside furniture manufacturers in serious difficulties with losses of even more than -20%, many others have instead managed to contain them or even increase their sales thanks to the fact that they have continued to invest in the development of new products, in technological innovation and in opening of new stores.
This variability in performance is also linked to the business segment.
Mattresses are the sector that recorded the lowest decline (-4%), followed by kitchen furniture and upholstery. A sample of mattress manufacturers representing more than 40% of the segment's total production recorded a turnover growth of more than 5% in 2020. The fall in the office is heavier (over -20%), penalized in particular by the decline in investments by businesses and those in the service sector. Once the Covid emergency has been overcome, the office is probably the sector that will undergo the greatest transformations, but which are still difficult to assess. The spread of smart working opens up new opportunities for companies in this segment, but many manufacturers fear that future orders generated by new work needs will not be sufficient to compensate for the reduction in large orders by companies to furnish their offices and the consequent fragmentation of projects.
An important factor driving the purchase of furniture that has allowed the furniture industry to achieve this higher than expected result was the renewed interest in the home.
The scenarios designed by the pandemic have given a new centrality to the home which has in a certain sense been rediscovered, and has been experienced, in recent months, as a certain space in which to live and work, becoming the new hub of all activities daily. Therefore, what was saved in travel or entertainment expenses was invested in improving the living space.
This new way of living the home has certainly influenced consumption. Among the new trends, we highlight the great attention to products related to the home office (with particular request for ergonomic office chairs and small desks), to the kitchen, to the comfort segments (from mattresses to upholstery) and to outdoor furniture. Flexible/transformable furniture is required (for example from the bookcase that can be transformed into a bed to sofas with a new structure made of modular components not rigidly fixed to each other). There is also a growing attention to eco-sustainability and a preference for natural materials (woods with essences that let the grain shine through, treated with formaldehyde-free products and water-based paints free of volatile organic compounds).
The pandemic has also caused a strong acceleration in sales through e-commerce.
For the future, it is believed that furniture consumption will strengthen over the next two years (average annual rate of over 4%), driven by the resumption of building redevelopment and greater attention to the domestic environment, which has also become a place of work and study. A good use of EU Next Generation funds should provide a further strong boost to public and private investment. The rebound will affect the different products included in the furniture aggregate in different ways. As things stand, it is believed likely that we will have to wait until 2023 to approach the levels of consumption before the pandemic.
Cover photo and in the text, Hybrid, the eclectic art de la table collection, designed by the Ctrlzak studio (Katia Meneghini and Thanos Zakopoulos) for Seletti, that expands to return an ideal journey across continents to discover different cultures. If the birth of the line represented the attraction between East and West, combining the tradition of Chinese porcelain with that of Europe, the Hybrid evolution. One World, One Future 'also embraces Africa, Central and South America and South Asia. A collection of ceramic plates, bowls, cups and vases (a material that ideally unites all cultures), which thanks to the mixture of different styles and worlds changes the way of seeing things.