Office Furniture. The World Outlook
According to the CSIL report ‘The World Office Furniture Industry’ the world office furniture industry in 2022 reached a total production value of USD 52.4 billion. Following the drop registered in 2020 due to the consequences of COVID- 19 global production showed a +14% rebound at current prices in 2021 and downgraded again in 2022 posting a -3% if compared to the previous year. Performances of world office furniture production have been different across regions.
While North America increased in 2022, Europe remained almost flat, and Asia-Pacific recorded a double-digit drop. However, in this regard, attention should be given to the currency issue. All data are in US dollars, and they are affected by the exchange rate fluctuations.
Another factor to be considered is inflation; prices are generally growing worldwide, and they are conditioning each country’s performance.
Office furniture represents around 11% of the total world furniture output. The Asia and Pacific is the main manufacturing area with a 48% share of world office furniture production, followed by North America, which accounts for 29%. Europe ranks third with an incidence of 19% of the worldwide output. The other geographical areas hold marginal shares. The production of office furniture is highly concentrated in only 8 countries accounting for around 79% of the total output: China, the United States, and, at a distance, Germany, India, Japan, Canada, Italy, and Poland.
World trade of office furniture (in current USD) peaked in 2021 increasing by +23% and then dropped by -10% in 2022 to a total value of USD 12.7 billion (preliminary). According to the CSIL forecast, world trade is expected to grow by 2% in 2023 and by 3% in 2024.
The ratio of exports over production in the office furniture segment amounts currently to around 26%. Even though this ratio is growing (it stood at 21% in 2016), it remains low compared to the furniture sector, where the export/production ratio is around 39%. The bulk of office furniture exports originates from China, Canada, Germany, Poland, and Italy and flows to the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. China keeps the largest share of world exports accounting for 40% of the total flows. To be noticed, however, that China lost 7 percentage points in 2022 due to weak international demand.
FURNITURE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR THE WORKPLACE
In the last three years, we saw an acceleration of several structural processes leading towards more fluid, multi-format real estate portfolios. Expanded employee choice includes more remote working, comprised in satellite or suburban locations that do not require extensive commuting. Technology investment in buildings will be crucial both for the existing motive of enhanced user experience and increasingly also for health management and wellbeing.
Fluidity will come in the form of working from a variety of locations (home, headquarters, flex office, or coffee shops) reflecting the diversity of tasks and the preferences of employees. The above-mentioned factors led to a rethinking of workplaces, timing, and resources, with more focus on interaction and corporate productivity. Priority is assigned to workspaces that encourage active collaboration and the informal exchange of views, with spaces for presentations, seating areas, and break zones to foster conversation and discussion. At the same time, there is a parallel need for zones that may facilitate concentration, eliminating distractions.
We have assisted in an exponential growth in the consumption of office chairs (or better, ergonomic work chairs). Over the past two years, the share of this product in total consumption has risen in each and every country. Once again, remote work, even if only for a couple of days a week, is the driving force behind this trend. It should also be highlighted that this growth was most notable for products in the mid-economic range.
Height-adjustable tables (HAT) are another fastest-growing segment in the office furniture business. In the last five years, HAT’s presence became tangible not only in Europe but also in North America. Almost all the major sector players worldwide introduced sit-stand desk collections and these products become visible also at the retail level (including e-commerce and large stores like IKEA).
Acoustic Booths/Room in Room Systems suffered from the slowdown of projects, but they are considered crucial for the new office conceiving. The presence of these products, also defined as pods, phone cabins, booths, silent rooms, privacy boxes, and cubes, is spreading in all kinds of commercial open-plan spaces.
Intelligent workplaces rely on the design of flexible facilities, suitable for smart work and all other needs, while also reducing the floor space required for workstations, or modifying layouts to create functional work zones inside public or domestic settings. These micro-architectures offer privacy, safety, and acoustic comfort, besides being outfitted with all the equipment and technologies that have become so indispensable today.
OMNICHANNEL TO EXPAND IN THE OFFICE BUSINESS
Over the last two years, sector companies reassessed distribution and logistics for a market that is becoming more fragmented, solving issues related to e-commerce and planning investments on that, communicating to the end customer (B2C) who commonly is not familiar with brands, and features and quality of office furniture products.
Omnichannel retail provides a complementary business model to reach more customers. Investments in new stores/showrooms, property webstores, and global e-commerce platforms, expanded significantly. The introduction of new product assortments and technology systems means that the retail business became part of the long-term growth strategy of office companies.
Generally speaking, office furniture distribution still shows a high degree of specialisation, with direct sales and office furniture specialists and/or exclusive dealers accounting for the largest portion of the total. However, the distribution systems are peculiar to each market and sometimes they differ significantly according to each country.
The direct channel incidence is very high in Japan with few corporations controlling the office market. In China, direct sales (including contract) cover almost half of the market due to a strong injection of Government commitments. Specialists or exclusive dealers represent the lion’s share in Europe and North America. In India, the unorganized distribution still represents 70% of the market. However, the organized business (contract, retailers, showrooms, importers) increased fast over the last decade jumping from 15% to 30% of the total.
The penetration rate of e-commerce in the sector is 4% with a total value that tripled compared to 2018 when online sales of office furniture represented only 1.7% of the total. E-commerce incidence in office furniture consumption is higher in North America and Europe (Germany, Scandinavia, and the United Kingdom). China leads the Asia- Pacific market in terms of values, although Japan shows an incidence of 5%, which is by far over the average of the Region.
CSIL’s office furniture market studies deal with facts and figures of the global office furniture industry. CSIL is currently working on the new edition of an in-depth analysis of European office furniture sector in the report ‘The European market for office furniture’. Find more details at https://www.worldfurnitureonline.com/report/the-european-market-for-office-furniture/