Furniture is in the top tier of manufacturing sectors according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The new data highlights the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on UK manufacturing – including the furniture sector – in 2020.

British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM) 2020 Market Review is based on the ONS’ recently released estimates for UK manufacturers’ sales-by-product for 2020.

BFM MD Nick Garratt said: “Overall, the ONS figures show that lockdowns and business closures saw the general furniture market drop by 7% last year compared to 2019.

“Given the challenges posed by the pandemic, the sector performed well when compared to the total value of UK manufacturers’ product sales, which fell by 10.8% with declines in almost all manufacturing divisions, including motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers which fell 25% in 2020.”

The latest ONS data reflects the pandemic-driven shift to people staying at – and working from – home, with the hardest hit being contract wooden shop furniture which was down by 34%, while household wooden kitchen furniture saw a notable increase of 9%.

Nick added: “As we emerge from lockdown, furniture manufacturers are showing a high degree of confidence going forward, with sustained levels of demand, although labour shortages are becoming a concern.

“Feedback from our members shows an increasing frustration in being unable to find staff and many factories now have order backlogs of up to four or five months as a result.”

Figures show the furniture sector was performing well pre-pandemic, with the number of enterprises in furniture manufacturing in 2019 being approximately the same as a decade ago at 6,355, while employee numbers have increased annually over the last five years to more than 95,000 people.

Data from the latest BFM Trade Survey showed 42% expected to recruit new staff in the next six months, while 84% were more confident about the general business situation than in October last year.

BFM’s 2020 Market Review is available in the members’ area of the BFM website.