Despite recent deterioration in the EU’s balance of furniture trade, European manufacturers remain a major force in the international furniture sector. Their dominance of the EU’s internal wood furniture market is also unlikely to be seriously challenged in the foreseeable future.
This is made clear in a series of detailed reports on Europe’s place in the global furniture sector newly released by the Italy-based research organisation CSIL.
CSIL estimate the total value of global furniture trade in 2018 was around US$149 billion, 4% up on the previous year and building on a 6% increase in 2017. CSIL expect the world furniture trade to continue to grow by 4% in 2019.
CSIL reckon world furniture consumption was US$460 billion in 2018 (production prices excluding the markup for distribution). World furniture consumption is forecast by CSIL to rise around 3.2% in real terms this year with growth concentrated in Asia and Pacific.
In the EU, CSIL estimate that total furniture production continued to grow in 2018, rising between 1% and 2% in real terms. According to CSIL forecasts, this rate of growth should continue until at least 2020.
The CSIL global ranking of 100 countries identifies Germany, the UK and France as the main importing countries worldwide after the United States (although at a distance). Germany, Italy and Poland are the main exporting countries at a global level, after China (at a distance).
CSIL highlight that while Asia has become more dominant in the global furniture sector, Europe remains the second largest furniture manufacturing region in the world and still accounts for around one quarter of global furniture production.
Europe is also the headquarters of some of the largest and most important sector players (around one third of the top 200 largest furniture companies in the world are located here).
Europe accounts for roughly one quarter of the global world furniture market. Per capita furniture consumption is the highest in the world (alongside North America). Europe accounts for around 44% of world furniture imports and 41% of world furniture exports
CSIL points out that the EU furniture sector now employs around one million workers, many of which are highly skilled, in 121,500 manufacturing firms, mainly micro and small sized. This, together with a rich cultural heritage, gives European manufacturers a competitive edge and promotes the development of creative competences which are recognized worldwide.
CSIL note that “the European industry is able to combine new technologies and innovation with cultural heritage, tradition and style, providing jobs for skilled workers and is also a world leader in the high-end segment of the furniture market”.
CSIL suggest that in addition to the barriers created by a large and highly competitive domestic industry, there are other obstacles to non-EU producers entering the market, including logistical costs and requirements for various forms of certification to specific technical and environmental standards.