Italian Furniture Sector More and More Outward-Looking

Like many other segments of the woodworking industries in various European countries, the Italian furniture sector exports more and more to non European Countries. One of the symbols of these growing interactions is the second edition of The Salone del Mobile Milano Shanghai (which can be loosely translated as Furniture Fair Milan Shanghai) which takes place in China in November 2017. 190 Italian enterprises showcase their products at the Fair, twice as much as in the previous year.

The increasing importance of non European markets is not limited to China: the sector is looking also at the MENA Area, and countries which were part of the former Soviet Union. While there are many opportunities, the Italian furniture sector is a little hampered by structural problems : the segment is extremely fragmented and made up chiefly of small and medium enterprises, which in some cases do not have the resources to put in place exporting strategies to countries which are so distant both logistically and culturally. Notwithstanding these difficulties, exports in the first 7 months of the year to China grew by a remarkable 36% (compared with the January-July 2016) to €279 million. China is now the seventh largest market for the Italian furniture sector. France remains the largest exporting market (+3.6% to €1.337 million), followed by Germany (+1.4% to €945 million), the UK (+0.3% to €728 million), and the US (+6% to €685 million).

The sector reckons that it is important to have a medium-term strategy in these new export markets: patience is key and it is fundamental that, if possible, enterprises devote enough resources as many operators in the sector are adamant that European markets – in spite of the relatively good economic context over the last few months – are relatively saturated.

The positive demographic prospects of many Asian and African countries and the consequent need for housing to accommodate a growing population guarantee medium-term growth perspectives, which are, however, at times offset by locally tense geopolitical situations. Notwithstanding this, FederlegnoArredo forecasts that largest exports’ growth in the next few years will take place in Asian countries such as South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam.
A good strategy to penetrate these markets seems to be the establishment of a local platform such as Singapore or Hong Kong in order to better serve these countries. A local platform is also helpful when it comes to managing the expectations and demands of customers hailing from different cultures. In this sense, there must be a more and more intense focus not just on the product itself, but on how to best sell it to a set of customers very different from the traditional ones.

 Article Adapted from Il Sole 24 Ore by the EOS Secretariat

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