The British Furniture Confederation (BFC) has responded to the Government’s Green Paper, ‘Building our Industrial Strategy’ with a vigorous call for long term, meaningful and practical sector-specific support, particularly in addressing the skills gap and helping companies to export.
“We broadly welcome this document and it’s good to see a British government showing real commitment to supporting a renaissance in British manufacturing, which is absolutely essential to the future prosperity of the country,” said the BFC chairman, Jonathan Hindle. “We just want to make sure that the furniture industry, which has much to offer both abroad and in the UK – and embraces skills and opportunities ranging from design and craftsmanship, to engineering, IT, sales and marketing – is not ignored in the race to embrace sexier or more high profile sectors.”
In the Green Paper, published in January, the Government identifies 10 key, interlinked pillars of focus:-
1. Science, research and innovation
4. Business growth and investment
6. Trade and investment
7. Affordable energy
8. Sectoral policies
9. Driving growth across the whole country
10. Creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places.
The BFC’s response calls for the government to give effective, long term, properly co-ordinated support to its own proposals, not just lip service. In particular the BFC applauds the commitment to invest in R & D but emphasises that it should include industry research associations and commercial bodies, not just universities.
The BFC also highlights the issue of an aging workforce and growing skills gap and urges the government not to turn off the tap on overseas workers before the industry has had a chance to recruit and train a new generation of workers. Given the right support and encouragement, the BFC argues, there is a real opportunity over the next few years to help encourage young people into careers in furniture manufacturing – in particular by not marginalising design and technology education in schools.
The BFC also focuses on calling for government to come up with a fully joined up strategy for supporting exports, which should, it argues, look to work more closely with industry associations – particularly in sectors such as the furniture industry, which comprises mostly SMEs scattered all over the UK.
The Government’s Green Paper, ‘Building our Industrial Strategy’ and the BFC’s full response can be found on the BFC website, here.
1. The British Furniture Confederation (BFC) maintains regular dialogue with Government and other influential stakeholders to ensure that all policies and initiatives support a thriving furniture, furnishings and bed sector. Many of its activities are done in partnership with the All Party Parliamentary Furniture Industry Group (APPFIG), chaired by Stephen McPartland MP.
2. 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.
3. The British Furniture Confederation is an executive body chaired by Jonathan Hindle and made up of representatives from the UK’s leading furniture, furnishings and bed trade associations:
British Contract Furnishing Association (BCFA)
British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM)
Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA)
Leisure and Outdoor Furniture Association (LOFA)
National Bed Federation (NBF)
Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers (WCFM)
It also has affiliations with other trade associations including: the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers (AMUSF) and Anti-Copying In Design (ACID).
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