Ready to Assemble furniture
THE EUROPEAN MARKET FOR READY-TO-ASSEMBLE FURNITURE
by Cecilia Pisa, CSIL
Compared to the ‘traditional’ furniture manufacturing, the ready-to-assemble furniture industry is more specific, due to its large volumes and to the peculiarity of its distribution channels.
A SPECIALIZED INDUSTRIAL PRODUCT
RTA furniture is not a simple piece of furniture to be self-assembled. The production of this kind of furniture requires a highly specializing industrial design. It’s a matter of an industrial product designed to minimize the costs of labour, and to optimize both the production equipment and the packaging. Generally speaking, it requires a strong concentration of investments in machinery, technological equipment and automation.
In the RTA furniture segment, “production” is a critical part of the company strategy, where increasing output capacity and curbing production costs are two not-to-be-missed conditions for staying competitive on the market.
For this reason, RTA industry is highly concentrated and it mainly includes large companies that are better able to deliver large volumes and to cope with delivery deadlines required from the large-scale distribution. Nevertheless, this sector also includes smaller firms that are particularly active in the market and that may operate in product niches such as children furniture and entertainment furniture. These firms usually work with distributors that require smaller volumes instead.
SOME STORY BEHIND
RTA furniture industry is a relatively recent business. It was born when Erie Sauder, the founder of the American ‘Sauder Woodworking Company’, invented the first “knock-down” table. Packed flat in a box, the customer could easily carry the product home, open the box, and assemble it within minutes. No tools, hardware, or glue were needed. Patented in 1953, this knock-down concept was expanded to a five unit series – cocktail table, lamp table, end table, step table and corner table – thus becoming the “Model T” of the ready-to-assemble industry and it has been produced at Sauder Woodworking Company for 15 years.
The RTA furniture industry further developed in the 1970’s and 1980’s, thanks to two concomitant key factors: the development of the wood panel production and new needs for home equipment related to the effects of the baby boom. In particular, the production of RTA furniture witnessed its main development in the second half of the 1990’s, when the volumes of produced furniture largely increased due to the creation of dedicated productive divisions put in place by manufacturers of wood-based panels and semi-finished goods for the furniture industry.
AN 8 BILLION EURO BUSINESS
The 2003-2006 period was characterised by wide-reaching transformations in the RTA sector’s industrial structure. The majority of firms made important choices either to relocate production to Eastern European countries or to increase their procurement from Asian countries. These strategic issues were also accompanied by a companies’ restructuring process and the closure of some production facilities in Europe.
In 2011 European production of RTA furniture was worth Euro 8,073 million. In general the European RTA furniture production performed better than the total furniture production. In fact, while the furniture production decreased by -13% between 2006 and 2011, the RTA furniture industry increased by almost 4% in the same period.
TOP SIX PRODUCING COUNTRIES
Six countries provide about 91% of whole European production of RTA furniture. Germany is the leading manufacturing country with a quota of 35% of total European production, followed by France, Sweden, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Italy, although the relative importance of the Italian RTA industry is lower.
From a geographical point of view, the Scandinavian countries show a greater degree of specialisation in the RTA furniture segment. It is estimated that 43% of the total furniture produced in Denmark is a kit furniture; this percentage achieves 35% for Sweden and 17% for Finland. This phenomenon is influenced not only by the long tradition of the local production of RTA furniture, but also by the massive presence of large specialized industrial groups, some of which are also IKEA’s suppliers.
Highlights of the CSIL report “The European Market for RTA Furniture”
The report aims to provide figures and trends for the European market for RTA furniture, analyzing the sector performance, the competitive system and its main actors.
The countries covered are: Austria • Belgium • Denmark • Finland • France • Germany • Italy • the Netherlands • Norway • Spain • Sweden • Switzerland • the United Kingdom.
Products covered include: Living/dining room furniture (including sets for living/dining room, bookshelves, tables and chairs, occasional furniture); bedroom furniture; children furniture; office/home office furniture; bathroom and kitchen furniture.
The report offers:
- data on production and consumption of RTA furniture by country
- the competitive system: the RTA industrial structure and profiles of over 100 manufacturers;
- distribution channels for kit furniture in Europe, with a sample of over 300 operators
The latest edition of the CSIL report (July 2012) is available at: www.worldfurnitureonline.com