The wood-furnishing sector saw a 9.1% contraction, with exports down 11.7%. This was driven by a harder lockdown than in some competitor countries, the sharp slowdown in international trade and the lack of trade fairs. The segments linked to residential furnishing fared better than those linked to non-residential furnishing.
According to the final data processed by the FederlegnoArredo Study Centre for 2020, the year of the Coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis it unleashed, the Italian wood-furnishing sector – composed of some 71,500 companies with more than 307,000 employees – closed with a 9.1% contraction compared with 2019. Both the domestic market (-7.5%) and, especially, the foreign markets (-11.7%), drove the decline in revenues. In 2020, the domestic market saw a fall in consumption largely triggered by the pandemic and the closure of business activities, although it benefited in part from the hike in demand for home furnishings in Italy. This applied both to interiors, driven by a need for greater comfort and for the creation of spaces geared to different uses, such as smart working and distance [earning, and to exteriors, which acquired a new centrality.
The logistical difficulties caused by the block on transports and displacements and the lack of trade fairs, all fundamental internationalisation tools, significantly slowed the growth of foreign sales and the completion of ongoing job orders, frequently delayed by months. After the strongly negative figures for the first six months of the year, the companies saw a substantial recovery from the summer onwards, albeit insufficient to iron out the damage caused by the months’ long closure, yet crucial for minimising the degree of loss suffered during the first oart of 2020. Wood-furnishing sector sales in Italy fell by 7.5%. The many tax incentives available in 2020 helped slow the decline and are stoking demand in 2021, along with Italians’ desire to carry out home improvements, strengthened by lockdown, which caused people to spend much more time at home, calling for new solutions. The segments linked to the non-residential world, office, retail and hospitality, saw a more marked contraction.
Wood-furnishing exports closed 2020 11.7% down. After starting the first two months in line with the same period in 2019, exports suffered a sharp decline which lasted until May, due to the many harder lockdowns than other European competitors, the halt to production and the significant slowdown in international trade. The -8.9% variation in the overall performance of the furnishing and lighting macrosystem, which includes furnishing, lighting, office, professional and commercial furnishing, was caused by markedly different trends in the Home and Contract segments.
Thanks to the partial recovery from June onwards, the segments most closely tied to the home sector closed the year with a more contained decline (furnishing – 7.8%, bathroom furnishing -9%), while the segments such as office, professional and commercial furnishing, more closely tied to non-residential sectors -offices, hospitality, public spaces and general contract furnishing – and those with a strong presence on the foreign markets, such as lighting- all slowed. The furnishing and lighting macrosystem closed the year 2020 with overall exports worth 11.1 billion euros,10.1% down on 2019.
The drop was a direct consequence of the lockdowns imposed in many countries around the world, albeit with different timeframes, and a sharp fall in international trade. Despite the slowdown, France remained the top commercial outlet (-7.1%), followed by Germany (-1.8%) and the United States, the top non-European outlet (-3.6%). The Furnishing System also experienced a setback during the year impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. There was an overall 7.8% decline in turnover in 2020, contained thanks to a significant recovery during the second half of the year. This was more marked on the foreign markets (-8.3%), which represent around half of total turnover, than on the domestic market (-7.3%). The failure of segments linked with hospitality and community activities in general to start up again informed a more marked decline, which had repercussions on the final performance of the furnishing system as a whole.
Furnishing system exports during 2020 accounted for an overall value of 6.4 billion euros, 8.3% down on 2019. Despite a 3.1% drop, France remained the leading export outlet for Italian furnishing system companies, accounting for 1.1 billion euros. Given that 2020 was so badly impacted by the complex and problematic consequences of Covid-19, the modest growth in exports to the United States (+0.6%) and Germany (+1.5%), was testament to the solidity and the strong presence of Made in Italy furnishing on these two important markets. A survey carried out by the FederlegnoArredo Study Centre showed that the main problems encountered by the wood-furnishing sector companies during this period were the increase in the price of raw materials and the lack of direct marketing events.
In terms of strategies, focusing on innovation and sustainability was a common tool employed by the companies in a bid to overcome the crisis. Throughout 2020, FederlegnoArredo’s efforts were focused on providing concrete support to the companies, both as regards financial support instruments – including the provision of a dedicated funding desk – designed to prevent a breakdown in the virtuous process that has seen the sector driving a positive trend in 4.0 and green investments – and as regards the foreign markets, by providing timely assistance with tackling the complex problems connected with exports to various parts of the world, which account for 52% of total furnishing and lighting macrosystem turnover.