What does 2021 hold in store for Italian furnishing industry?

After a 2020 marked by a heavy drop in turnover, companies in the sector are called upon to look to the coming months with fresh energies.

settore legno-arredo italiano/ Italian furnishing industry

The supply chain is composite and includes players of different activities and sizes: from companies involved in the procurement and processing of raw materials to retailers of finished products, in all their forms.

The European industry accounts for more than a quarter of world production, with Made in Italy playing a leading role: the country is the EU leader, with an annual production of more than 23 billion euros in the furniture sector alone.

The share rises to 42 billion if we consider the entire wood-furniture-lighting chain, placing Italy right after Germany among EU producers: an absolute leading position in a market that at global level has reached a value of over $730 billion in 2019.

The impact of the pandemic led to a sharp contraction of the entire industry, whose value fell below $700 billion last year: the drop in revenues for Italian operators was around 9.4%, with an expected recovery of just over 5% by 2021.

Beyond the numbers, what are the prospects for the Italian furnishing industry in the coming months?

First and foremost, companies are called upon to maintain high quality standards, paying ever greater attention to sustainability and the creation of tailor-made products: two elements that Italian companies have long taken into consideration, confirming their position as one of the greenest in Europe in terms of emissions produced, energy consumption and waste disposal. Alongside these aspects, attention to design and product innovation remains a fixed point, with many brands having made excellence their philosophy.

Although these approaches remain fundamental, the relaunch of the sector will require further consolidation in foreign markets. Exports have always been a real vocation for our companies, with around 46% of exports going to non-EU markets. The forced halt to production has caused an abrupt collapse in this respect too, slowing down the growth of a sector that has always been highly dynamic.

As for other sectors, the cancellation of trade fairs has also put a strain on the possibility of creating new business relationships, especially within foreign countries. For many companies, e-commerce has made it possible to buffer the negative consequences of the situation, demonstrating how multi-channel sales continue to be a fundamental component of a wide-ranging strategy. Lockdowns in many countries have in fact led many consumers to rediscover their homes, shifting their purchases towards furniture products.

What we have outlined so far applies to both the domestic and foreign markets: intercepting demand within the best nations will undoubtedly be essential for all companies in the industry, called upon to strengthen their presence in countries where Italian furniture products continue to enjoy an excellent reputation. Examples include the Russian Federation and China, two markets where Italian furnishing exports have seen interesting growth in recent years, especially for medium-high end products.  Another attractive area is Northern Europe, which has always been the ideal destination for exports of Italian furniture, appreciated for the high quality of its materials, refined design and high functionality.

In 2021, it will therefore be crucial to look beyond national borders, identifying the most suitable counterparts for the development of new, valuable business relationships.

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