The Corona pandemic also impacted the business development of office furniture and office chair manufacturers in 2020. In the first three quarters of the year in particular, their sales were significantly below the previous year's figures, although they did note an increase in demand towards the end of the year. This was partly due to purchases for home office equipment.
Overall, the Office and Workplace Industry Association (IBA) reports total sales of just under EUR 2.2 billion in the office furniture industry for 2020. This represents a year-on-year decline of 11.8 percent. After a sharp drop in April 2020, sales of office furniture manufacturers at the end of September were still 14.5 percent below the corresponding period in 2019.
Exports more affected than domestic sales
Rising demand in the domestic market was responsible for the increase in sales in the last quarter, which was almost back to the previous year's level in a quarter-on-quarter comparison. Over the year as a whole, domestic sales fell by 11.1 percent compared to 2019, while exports failed to see the positive effect at the end of the year. Here, demand fell by 13.7 percent over the year as a whole. The average export ratio decreased from 26.1 percent in 2019 to 25.5 percent.
The association attributes the recent stable domestic development mainly to the demand from large and framework agreement customers. According to the association, these customers used the partial absence of their employees to implement projects that had initially been put on hold in the spring, to replace furniture or to make office environments fit for the new requirements of the increasingly hybrid working world.
To a lesser extent, purchases for home office equipment also contributed to the increase in demand at the end of the year. Seating furniture was in greater demand. In 2020, they performed slightly better than tables, cabinets and room-dividing elements (minus 13.3 percent), with a decrease of 10.1 percent.
Association calls for clear standards for home offices
However, the IBA still sees a lot of catching up to do when it comes to equipping home offices. The workplace conditions there have hardly improved over the period of the pandemic to date. According to a forsa survey commissioned by the IBA, only a small proportion of employees received support from their employer in setting up their home office. The association is therefore calling for clear minimum standards for a home office or guidelines for teleworking.