CSIL, the Centro Studi Industria Leggera, has just published two reports on forecasts and scenarios for the furniture sector in 2020-2022: the Forecast Report on the Furniture Sector in Italy, 2020-2022 and the World Furniture Outlook 2020.
The Forecast Report on the Furniture Sector in Italy provides an updated picture of the outlook for the Italian furniture industry and market. The study includes an analysis both for the furniture sector as a whole and for the individual sectors of upholstered furniture, kitchen furniture, home furniture and office furniture complete with preliminary data for 2019 and forecasts to 2022 for production, exports, domestic consumption and imports.
The World Furniture Outlook 2020 report contains analytical data on the furniture industry and forecasts for furniture demand growth in 2020-2021 in 100 countries: 40 European countries, 21 countries in Asia and the Pacific, 21 in the Middle East and Africa, 3 in North America and 15 in Central and South America.
The furniture sector in Italy in 2019
In 2019 the furniture sector in Italy recorded stable sales both on the domestic and foreign markets, resulting in zero growth in the total turnover of the sector at constant prices. Also the Italian macroeconomic context has not helped the companies in the sector: the Gross Domestic Product in real terms is expected to increase by 0.2% in 2019, slowing down compared to 2018 growth (+0.8%). Manufacturing companies have recorded a continuous decline in confidence, which has had an impact on investment. In particular, for companies in the furniture sector, investments in woodworking machinery have suffered a setback, as evidenced by Acimall data for the first half of 2019 that report a decline in orders on the Italian market of -25%. To weigh on this trend, in addition to the weakness of the market, was also the exhaustion of the propulsive effect of incentives.
The Italian market is still substantially stable
As far as the internal market is concerned, it is showing a positive trend, even if it is clearly slowing down: the furniture bonus has favoured the stability of domestic consumption, but the uncertainty linked to future prospects continues to limit furniture purchases and also affects future purchasing intentions.
Household spending slowed down in 2019, although it remained positive (+0.6% in real terms); at the same time, however, there was a marked increase in the propensity to save. In 2020, household consumption growth is expected to increase again by +0.6%, supported by improvements in the labour market. Investment also remains positive, but decelerating: in 2019 growth is stopping at 2.2% and will not exceed 1.7% in 2020. Here too, the deceleration in investment is driven mainly by low growth in the machinery component.
For the furniture sector, this scenario will also lead to a further weakness of the internal market, which will resume growth at rates close to 1% only from 2021 onwards. Domestic consumption will continue to benefit from the positive input from investment in residential construction, but the slowdown in disposable income growth at the end of the forecast period and total employment will hold back purchases.
The Stability Law for 2020 provides for the confirmation of the furniture bonus in the same way and a positive boost will also come from the construction of new houses, although it can be assumed as of today that the expansionary measures of the manoeuvre will not be such as to give momentum to the market.
In light of the trend of the determinants of demand, it is therefore estimated that the domestic market will still be substantially stable in 2020; even imports will not achieve significant increases and such as to increase their penetration of the Italian market.
A moderate increase in sales on foreign markets
As far as exports are concerned, in Italy, 2019 showed a slowdown in the growth of Italian furniture companies. Going into detail, sales in the European Union markets are showing a slightly faster pace than those in non-EU markets, thanks mainly to good performance in the French and Swiss markets.
In 2020, exports, on the other hand, will resume to enjoy a slightly more lively potential foreign demand that will allow a new increase in sales on foreign markets, although it will still remain very moderate.
On foreign markets, the expected appreciation of the euro against the dollar will not play in favour of demand from countries outside the European Union, although it will be more dynamic. Demand from countries within the European market will also remain moderately positive. Overall, foreign demand from non-European countries is expected to grow by more than 2% in 2020, thanks to the performance of the North American and Asian markets and a likely, albeit fluctuating, recovery in the Middle East. Italian companies are expected to be able to intercept a large part of this demand thanks to price competitiveness. In summary, in 2020 exports are expected to grow by 1% at constant prices.
A scenario still full of uncertainties
The current forecasting scenario for world and Italian growth is characterised by some downward risks represented by the possible negative evolution of tariff conflicts and geopolitical turbulence that have a negative impact on international trade and increase the level of uncertainty for operators.
Global growth for 2019 (at 3%) has been the weakest since 2009 and is expected to increase moderately by 3.4% in 2020 and 3.6% in 2021. Downside risks are substantial, mainly caused by:
- Weak business confidence stemming from US-China trade tensions
- Volatility of consumer confidence in advanced economies
- Continued structural slowdown in growth in China
- Uncertainty about Brexit.
The downward risks for the global economy have a strong impact on the furniture sector, in particular because furniture is widely traded internationally (32% by value of world furniture consumption is imported). Trade measures imposed by the US and retaliatory actions by trading partners continue to change the scenario substantially. Moreover, the escalation of trade tensions leads to increased political uncertainties with negative effects on the economic climate.
The global scenario
Over the last decade, international trade in furniture has grown faster than furniture production, and amounts to about 1% of international trade in manufactured goods, reaching about $150 billion in 2018 and 2019.
The main furniture importing countries are the United States, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. On the export side the main players are: China, Germany, Poland, Italy and Vietnam (two Asian and three European producers). Vietnam is the exporting country with the highest growth rates in 2019.
Forecasts of world market trends in 2020
After a year of stagnation, world trade in furniture is expected to resume growth in 2020 and 2021 (all international trade data are expressed in current dollars and therefore subject to exchange rate changes).
Forecasts of world market developments and by geographical region for 2020 are shown in Graph 5 published here. In 2020, CSIL forecasts an increase in world furniture consumption of around 2.4% in real terms. The fastest growing region continues to be Asia, with all other regions growing between 1% and 2% in real terms. The slowest growing region appears to be Europe.
More information on the content of the Forecast Report on the Furniture Sector in Italy, 2020-2022 and the World Furniture Outlook 2020 and on all CSIL research and consultancy publications and activities are available on www.csilmilano.com and www.worldfurnitureonline.com.
In July 2020 an update of the forecasts for the 100 countries will be available in the new edition of the World Furniture Outlook report and a specific note dedicated to Italy.