The Furniture Industry Research Association

The centre of knowledge for the furniture industry

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Headlines from FIRA's Furniture Statistics Digest: manufacturing, retail sales and exports up; however imports outpacing exports

The Furniture Industry Research Association has today (9 January) published its annual ‘Statistics Digest for the UK Furniture Industry’. The 50 page publication covers the period from 2012-2015, alongside some provisional data and estimates for 2016. Acting as a barometer for the furniture industry, the Digest confirms furniture manufacturing, retail sales and exports are up; whilst imports are significantly outpacing exports.

Described as ‘an essential read for anyone operating in the furniture sector’, the Digest is compiled using the latest available data sourced from Government bodies including the Office for National Statistics (ONS), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Communities and Local Government, and the Bank of England. The Digest covers UK furniture manufacturing as a whole and also drills down into more detailed statistics for product groupings for the office and shop, kitchen, mattress and ‘other furniture’ sub sectors. International trade data is also made available.

In summary, UK furniture manufacturing as a whole was just over £8 billion in 2015, a 7% increase on the previous year and a 21% increase on 2012’s turnover. The office and shop sector saw an 18% increase in turnover from 2012 to 2015, reaching £2.3 billion, and the kitchen sector increased to £1.6 billion in 2015. The mattress sector has exhibited substantial growth, with turnover increasing 33% since 2012, reaching £0.75 billion in 2015. ‘Other furniture’ accounts for 47% of the industry’s total turnover, and at £3.3 billion in 2015, grew by 9% since 2014.

Turning attention to international trade, imports are outpacing exports quite significantly. Dr Pete Beele, Technical Development Manager at FIRA International and author of the Digest said “twelve months ago the Digest flagged a worrying trend of an ever widening trade gap between import and export data, and this trend has continued. 2015 saw imports of furniture into the UK increasing to almost £5.4 billion; compared with the 2014 figure of £4.8 billion. Notably, the prediction for 2016, based on October 2016 trade data to date, is that this figure could reach £5.8 billion. A £1.0 billion increase in just 24 months.”

The Digest finds that China is responsible for 33% of all furniture imports into the UK; with Italy remaining the second largest supplier at 11%.

Pete Beele continued, “as regards exports, the overall trend of gradual increases since 2012, albeit with minor fluctuations, has continued with the Digest showing 2015 levels reaching £1.0 billion, equating to a 7% increase on 2014. More positively, the prediction for 2016 (based on October’s trade figures) is that exports will continue to increase and could reach £1.12 billion.

“The latest figures provide some cause for optimism. However, uncertainties over the impact of Brexit make it harder to predict how industry will fair over the next few years. I’ll certainly be watching with keen interest, and the Furniture Industry Research Association will continue to support members, and the wider furniture industry through our knowledge, information and research.”

Taking a wider view of the industry in 2015, furniture manufacturing increased to 1.55% of the UK’s total manufacturing turnover, with 5,998 registered furniture manufacturers, however there was a 7% decrease in average employment numbers from 2012 to 2015.

The latest ‘Statistics Digest’ is available free of charge to Research Association members, who can login and access the report from the link below. Non-members can purchase a copy, priced at £1,000, by contacting info@fira.co.uk or via http://bookshop.bmtrada.com.


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