Mar 30 2021

The position of German furniture manufacturers

Current studies and statistics from the furniture industry are presented in the comprehensive statistical yearbook "Möbel Zahlen Daten 2021", published by Ferdinand Holzmann Verlag. It provides information about developments in the furniture industry during the last few years, as well as some interesting industry data. In three parts, we highlight essential information, each from the perspective of manufacturers, retailers and consumers.

German manufacturers maintain top position  

In the turnover ranking of furniture production in European countries, Germany once again defended its top position. With around 17.7 billion euros in 2019, German manufacturers generated 21.2 per cent of the total industry turnover of furniture and furniture parts in Europe, just ahead of Italy with a share of 20.6 per cent. (Source: Eurostat online database) 

Compared to the 2016 financial year, when Italy still ranked first, Germany achieved a 19.4 per cent increase in sales in 2019, while Italian furniture manufacturers' sales have since fallen by 1.3 per cent. Poland (12.1 per cent) and the UK (9.7 per cent) followed in third and fourth place in the ranking. 

Fifth place went to France and Spain, each with 6.1 per cent of European furniture manufacturing turnover. Together, the industry generated a little more than 83.45 billion euros in the EU states, 75.8 billion of which were generated by the top 5 ranked companies alone - a remarkable 89.9 percent.

In times of New Work and home office, office furniture continues to gain in importance. © Wilkhahn

Significant decline in turnover due to Corona 

For the pandemic year 2020, "Möbel Zahlen Daten 2021" takes into account evaluated reports up to and including September. According to this, sales in Germany fell to 12.4 billion euros, which is minus 6.3 percent compared to the same period last year.

More recent data from the Association of the German Furniture Industry (VDM) from February 2021 paint a somewhat different picture. In the year as a whole, turnover was 17.2 billion euros, a minus of only 3.7 per cent compared to 2019. According to the VDM, the second lockdown with week-long closures of the main sales channels means that a significantly "more difficult situation" can be expected for 2021.  

The strongest decline documented in the statistics yearbook was in the mattress sector (-11.5 per cent), while kitchens even managed a 2.2 per cent increase in sales. In the first three quarters of 2020, the statistics record 468 furniture manufacturers with a company size of 50 or more employees. 

The Federal Statistical Office publishes a slightly higher turnover of the German furniture industry for 2019 than Eurostat. It took into account 476 furniture manufacturers with 50 or more employees, whose combined turnover was around 17.9 billion euros.  

The number of manufacturers of this size has decreased by 22 companies since 2016. This had hardly any effect on the number of employees: It rose from 84,191 to 84,386 in the same period. Sector-specific effects of the Corona-related short-time work for 2020 are not yet documented here. 

Kitchen furniture industry successful in the long term 

The kitchen furniture industry is proving to be successful in the long term, generating 5.0 billion euros with only 50 companies, which is 27.9 percent of the total turnover of the German furniture industry. The reason for the positive balance could be the continuing trend towards high-quality materials and the desire of many consumers to equip kitchens with homely elements.  

In 2019, living room, dining room and bedroom furniture accounted for 7.8 billion euros, or 43.6 per cent, while office and shop furniture contributed 4.3 billion euros and 24.0 per cent to the industry's total turnover.

The products of German kitchen manufacturers score with high quality and homely details. © AMK

Strong export ratio of German furniture  

In recent years, Germany's export share has steadily increased, from 27.0 percent (2009) to 32.7 percent in 2019. In the pandemic year 2020, Germany's export share was 31.4 percent. Kitchen furniture proved to be the strongest export sector with 40.4 per cent, followed by living room, dining room and bedroom furniture with 31.3 per cent. 

In the first half of 2020, furniture manufacturers recorded a total turnover of 8.1 billion euros, which corresponds to a change of minus 9.8 percent compared to the previous year. Foreign sales declined by 13.2 percent.  

Smaller impact for kitchen furniture 

Kitchen furniture manufacturers came through the first half-year best, with a decline of "only" 2.3 percent. Domestically, they even managed a small increase of 0.5 percent, while exports fell by 6.1 percent. If the first three quarters are taken into account, the decline is even more pronounced at 6.9 per cent (-5.3 per cent domestic, -10.1 per cent foreign). Reliable figures from the last quarter were not yet available when the statistics were published.  

The German furniture industry exported mainly to the European Union (71.2 per cent), the most important import countries also belonged to the EU (68.9 per cent). After Brexit, VDM Managing Director Jan Kurth expects exports to Great Britain, the fifth most important European market for the German furniture industry, to continue to fall. Since 2016, sales have already fallen by 11 percent.  

In the kitchen furniture sector, the strongest export countries were France (25.3 per cent), the Netherlands (14.8 per cent) and Austria (9.8 per cent). The most important suppliers were Lithuania (20.9 percent), Poland (17.7 percent) and Italy (15.5 percent). 

The differentiated statistical material of "Möbel Zahlen Daten 2021" is mainly based on surveys covering the period until the end of 2019. Nevertheless, the first trends in the course of the pandemic year 2020 are already becoming clear. Only later surveys can provide reliable information on which submarkets benefited from the crisis and where the greatest declines in turnover were felt.

In Part 2 we present the developments in the retail sector, in Part 3 we analyse figures on consumer behaviour. 

Author: Heike Edelmann

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