Now the dust is settling after the General Election, the British Furniture Confederation (BFC) is bracing itself to work with the newly formed Government on behalf of the furniture and furnishing sector. Jonathan Hindle, chairman of the BFC says:
“In the run up to the election, the BFC published an analysis of each of the Party Manifestos and compared them to our Furniture Industry Manifesto, which was issued late last year. Coupled with this was our response to the Industrial Strategy Green Paper, published last April. Both documents sought to inform politicians by identifying the challenges facing the industry in the short-to-medium term. They pinpointed areas where the Government can work with the sector to overcome these challenges.
“A recurring concern for the furniture & furnishing industry is the issue of foreign workers. The industry faces a shortage of skills across many disciplines, but particularly in manufacture. The sector currently relies heavily on foreign workers for these skills. Whilst there is a clear need for a renewed focus on upskilling the UK workforce, the threat of a sudden drain of resources following Brexit would seriously hinder the industry. Efforts are being made to ramp-up resources for training and development through revived Trailblazer apprenticeships and training schemes. However, these need to be more comprehensive if they are to become effective within Brexit time-frames.
“The weak currency continues to create cost pressures and potential inflationary price outcomes. The industry relies on significant proportions of imported components and materials in our manufacturing processes.
“I am no fan of the waste and unaccountability which prevails in Brussels, and it would be difficult to surmise that the recent Election outcome was a result of a vote against Brexit. However, it possibly indicates a vote against what people understood by a ‘hard’ Brexit versus a more business friendly ‘soft’ Brexit. I do not mean that we should compromise on a strong negotiating stance in the pursuit of genuine trading benefits, yet we must not ‘cut our nose off to spite our face’.
“Encouragingly, as a result of the Brexit vote, our Industry is growing its exports and looking for fresh markets outside the EU. While this can only be a good thing, our ability to continue to trade with our current largest market should remain a priority. Nobody is suggesting this should be negotiated at any cost. The weak fall-back position to a WTO tariff must surely encourage both sides to reach a sensible accommodation. We are, after all, a significant net importer with a thumping great trade deficit to prove it! I am hopeful that a more business-friendly team in Government will begin to support our design-led manufacturing industries correctly as we enter the era of Industry 4:0.
“The BFC looks forward to working with MPs and Peers across the House to ensure the views of the British furniture industry is fully represented in Parliament in the years to come. “
- 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.
- 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.
 Statistics taken from FIRA’s Statistics Digest November 2016, a compilation of published statistics and market information which has been sourced primarily from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), HM Customs and Revenue, The Bank of England and the Communities and Local Government web sites.