UK exporters improved sales but showed an increasing reliance on EU deals during the first six months of 2018 according to the British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM) review of furniture overseas trade. It also showed a decline in Chinese imports across all furniture sectors.
Traditional furniture sectors (as opposed to the all-furniture category which includes products such as motor and aeroplane seats) showed exports up in all sectors to EU countries, with the only declines seen in countries outside of the EU.
For all countries, export sales rose as follows: upholstered seats (7.4%); non-upholstered seats (6.7%); kitchens (6.3%); wooden bedroom furniture (40.5%); wooden dining and living room furniture (6.8%); office and shop furniture (4.9%) and mattresses (32.4%).
The Republic of Ireland regained top spot from France as the major EU recipient of all types of UK furniture and for all sectors. It received £157million of imports, up by over 12% on the same six month period in 2017. £121 million was exported to France (-27%) and £103 million to Germany (+15.9%).
The USA, however, remains the major destination for UK companies with exports to the value of £285 million, down by 19.1% compared to 2017.
The second major non-EU recipient of UK furniture is China and here exports fell by 31.8% to £58 million, although for upholstered seats, exports rose by 171% to near £950 million.
When it comes to imports, China continues to dominate the all-furniture category in all sectors, reaching a value of over £1bn between January and June 2018 – but that was down by over 7% on the same period last year. In fact, in every furniture sector, China saw import values fall: upholstered seats (-16.3%); non-upholstered seats (-4.6%); kitchens (-31%); wooden bedroom furniture (-13.1%); wooden dining and living room furniture (-7.1%); office and shop furniture (-3.2%) and mattresses (-1.6%).
Imports of all furniture to the UK hardly changed in the first six months of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017, with imports from the EU increasing and imports from outside of the EU falling. There were some notable falls in import values in some sectors such as upholstered seats (-6%); non-upholstered seats
(-7.8%); kitchens (-8.3%) and wooden bedroom furniture (-7.4%). The sector that saw the largest percentage rise in imports was wooden dining and living room furniture (16.4%), followed by office and shop furniture (13.5%) and mattresses (8.3%).
Of the top three EU furniture importers to the UK, Poland saw the biggest increase in values sold; up by over 8%. Italy remains at the top with Germany third. All three countries imported over £300 million worth of furniture in the first half of this year.
The USA remains the second largest importer to the UK, outside of the EU, seeing its share of the market increase by 15% to £167 million.
The British Furniture Manufacturers is a trade association that has represented the interests of the British furniture industry for more than 65 years. It has a broad-based membership covering domestic, contract, office and kitchen manufacturers as well as suppliers to the industry and retailers. Members enjoy a number of benefits including access to expertise across subjects such as export, EU timber regulations, health and safety, commodity pricing and the environment.