About The Industry
UK furniture, bed and furnishings manufacturing is a substantial industry. According to 2015 Government statistics its 8,113 companies contribute £11.1 billion to the country’s GDP (10% up on previous year), which equates to 2.2% of manufacturing output. Over a quarter of a million jobs are dependent on the success of the industry, with 107,000 in manufacturing alone. There are 150,000 in specialist furniture and furnishings retail and wholesale, 3,000 in repair, 10,000 in leasing, plus a proportion of the 52,000 registered specialist designers. Consumer expenditure on furniture and furnishings equates to £16.2 billion per year. In addition to this there is an unquantified value of product entering the contract and office markets.
Furniture, furnishings and beds encompass a diverse range of products and markets, traditionally segmented into 3 sub sectors based upon the purchaser’s characteristics:
- Domestic: serving the public, mainly through retail outlets and for household use.
- Contract: furniture for public areas such as hotels, schools, cruise liners, hospitals, restaurants, residential accommodation, stadia and airports.
- Office: desks, work stations, seating, tables, cabinets and other items for the office environment.
Companies often serve more than one market. In particular the distinctions between the office and contract sectors are blurred, and some manufacturers supply both domestic and contract end users. It is estimated that 30% of the UK’s furniture manufacturing turnover is attributable to the office and contract sub sectors.
The industry has a high proportion of micro and small to medium size businesses. Looking solely at furniture and bed manufacturing (i.e. excluding furnishings, retail, repair, design etc), only 285 companies report turnovers in excess of £5 million and 83% of companies turn over less than £1m per year with 57% turning over less than £250,000. This pattern is reflected in employment figures with 78% of companies employing less than ten people, and only 40 companies employing more than 250.
Despite its contribution to the UK economy, furniture and bed manufacturing suffers from lack of recognition at a political level. The industry has no traditional regional hub, with manufacturing spread across the country. As a consequence, and with much industry support now targeted on a regional basis, it is considered that the industry does not secure the support and influence from government that is appropriate for its size and contribution to the economy.
The UK furniture market
The 2015 home furniture market (again excluding furnishings, retail, repair and design) was £13 billion (manufacturer selling price) . UK furniture and bed manufacturing turnover has increased since 2012, reaching £8.64 billion in 2015. Over the same period, total imports rose to £5.4 billion whilst exports rose from a 2012 level of £830 million to £1billion.
Import growth is primarily driven by China (33%), followed by Italy and Poland (11% and 10% respectively).
The main destination for exports from the UK is the Republic of Ireland (20%) followed by Germany, France and the USA (all 10%).
The generic term “furniture” within this document means furniture, beds and furnishings