CSIL analyses the Top 200 manufacturing companies operating in the furniture sector
EVOLUTION OF WORLD FURNITURE PRODUCTION
According to CSIL, world furniture production was worth about USD 470 billion in 2018, with an increasing share of production in Asia and Pacific, carried out by fast-growing domestic suppliers and also as a result of productive investments made by companies from the advanced economies.
The evolution of furniture production by geographical region in the past years outlined some major issues: from 2013 to 2018 production in Asia and Pacific increased by more than one-fifth, while changes in other regions of the world were comparatively minor. As a consequence, in 2018 over one half of world furniture production took place in the Asian and Pacific area.
THE SELECTION OF TOP 200 FURNITURE MANUFACTURERS
With an extensive analysis that led to the publication of the Market Research Report ‘Top 200 furniture manufacturers worldwide’ (March 2019), CSIL identified the leading players operating in the furniture sector (definition of ‘top company’ relates to the value of furniture turnover).
Altogether, the Top 200 companies produced a total turnover of around USD 150 billion, of which, around USD 100 billion relate specifically to the furniture sector (or about 20% of world furniture production).
Given the importance of new emerging suppliers, who are competing with long-established and traditional players, CSIL deserved particular attention to monitor and keep updated the sample composition. As a matter of fact, the ranking in the present edition of the report includes nearly 40 ‘newcomers’, mainly from Asian and Pacific region (AA Corporation, Shing Mark, and Truong Thanh Furniture from Vietnam, Lii Hen Group and Poh Huat from Malaysia, just to mention a few).
THE PERFORMANCE IS POSITIVE, BUT DIFFERENT AMONG THE AREAS
Looking at the last five years, the Top 200 furniture manufactures increased more than the total furniture production (+18% growth in turnover between 2013 and 2018).
If we compare turnover trends for the Top 200 according to the location of their headquarters for the last five years, (remembering that the sample relates only to big players), we find that leading players have grown at two speeds, in line with the growth of the world furniture production, meaning a strong contribution from the leading players in North America and a lower increasing trend from European companies.
With regard to Asian manufacturers, their development in latest decades has been impressive, but growth rates have been recently stabilizing, particularly in China. On the other hand, the worst years of the crisis seem to be over in Western economies. Furniture production output started growing again, firstly in North America and later in Europe.
THE DIFFERENT DRIVERS OF INVESTMENTS ABROAD
The Top 200 furniture manufacturers have headquarters in 30 different countries. About 100 companies operate in manufacturing plants outside their headquarter locations. Over 20 years and more, leading companies followed different drivers of investments in establishing production operations abroad.
The US companies were among the first players opening overseas manufacturing plants. In the Top 200 sample, about half of US companies operate manufacturing plants in neighbouring countries like Mexico and across Asian countries.
Looking at Asia, the majority of the companies started opening plants in China. Two of the first movers were Haworth and Ashley furniture. Haworth opened its first plant in Shanghai Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone in 1997, with an investment of USD 40 million. Two years later, Ashley opened its manufacturing plant in Kushan, near Shanghai, where more than 5,000 workers are involved in cut-and-sew operations and in the production of frames and finished upholstered furniture for international markets.
The history of foreign investments of the Top European furniture companies is a long one and presents different examples. More than 40 of the companies have plants outside the headquarters country. One representative example is Natuzzi, which in 2000 expanded its global production capacity in China, Romania, and Brazil. Some companies (mainly upholstered furniture manufacturers) invested in neighbouring Eastern European countries, where the scenario for furniture production is dynamic. Since 1993, Polipol made huge investments in Poland by opening several factories and 10 years later expanded production in Romania. In June 2018, the company announced the opening of a new factory in Belarus to produce soft furniture to sell across the EU markets. In 2017 Ekornes invested more than EUR 10 million in opening a new manufacturing plant in Lithuania, starting production in the first half of 2019.
Chinese leading furniture manufacturers did important investments abroad following different drivers. Some companies of the sample invested in locations where production costs are becoming comparatively lower than in China, following a policy of differentiation and mitigation of risks linked to trade policies. This is the case of Man Wah and Henglin Chair, which in 2018 invested in setting up operations in Vietnam.
Some Chinese companies invested near the markets where they are willing to sell, for example, in the United States or Europe. In 2018 Markor Investment acquired the US upholstered furniture manufacturer Rowe Furniture and the high-end wood furniture manufacturer Jonathan Charles. In 2017 Man Wah acquired 50% of Home Group which operates facilities in Eastern Europe and will support the Man Wah’s business growth in Europe.
Most recently, following more investments drivers of branding/know-how acquisitions, Chinese companies made important investments entering in the agreement or merging with leading European furniture manufacturers. In 2018 Kuka acquired the German upholstered furniture manufacturer Rolf Benz and Qumei Home Furnishings completed the acquisition of Ekornes.
Main results of the CSIL report 'Top 200 Furniture Manufacturers Worldwide' (March 2019) were presented during the CSIL International Seminar World Furniture Outlook (April 10th, 2019 at Salone del Mobile.Milano), a unique occasion to gather comments on the key facts regarding production, consumption and trade of furniture on a global scale, with a forward-looking approach.