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Weak demand and geopolitical tensions are slowing down sales of Italian furniture

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Weak demand and geopolitical tensions are slowing down sales of Italian furniture

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That 2023 would be a difficult year – compared to the ride of the previous two years – was clear to companies in the Italian wood-furniture supply chain since the first quarter of the year, when the unstoppable (double-digit) growth in orders began to show signs of slowing down, although revenues were still supported by the closure and invoicing of previous orders. The results of the second quarter had confirmed the slowdown in progress, especially on the export front, while the domestic market was still supported by the effect of the tax bonuses on construction.

The slowdown – partly the result of a normalization of demand after two completely extraordinary years, but partly also of a decline in global demand – was confirmed in the following quarters, so that the sector closed the year with a decline of 8 .1% of production turnover, as revealed by the preliminary data released by FederlegnoArredo, falling to 52.6 billion euros in value, with a more accentuated negative trend on the domestic market (-10.1%), due to the progressive weakening of incentives mentioned above, and a smaller decline in exports (-4.5%).

At the level of the individual macro-areas, a more marked decline is highlighted for the wood industry, which recorded revenues decreasing by 11.6%, while the furniture industry contained the decline to -3.4% (with a more or less similar figure for both Italy and abroad), dropping to 28 billion euros in total turnover.

The inflation effect

«Furniture has defended itself – observes Claudio Feltrin, president of FederlegnoArredo –: a drop of 3.4% is not dramatic, also because during 2023 there were no significant increases in the price lists, as there were in 2022, therefore the the revenue figure, 28 billion, is effective, not tainted, so to speak, by inflation. Therefore it reflects an industrial decline compared to the previous year, but with still extraordinary values.” In fact, the comparative analyzes of the Fla study center demonstrate that, in terms of volumes produced, the 2023 figure is only slightly lower than that of 2019, while at the supply chain level the values ​​are essentially equivalent. Demonstrating that the inflationary effect on the furniture system was more incisive than it was for the wood system, which however saw revenues collapse, particularly in Italy, due to the combination of two factors: «For wood there is it is a price factor closely linked to that of raw materials and energy – says Feltrin -. Business revenues therefore fell also thanks to the reduction in production costs, as well as, unfortunately, also due to a contraction in demand.”

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In general, the inflationary effect is evident across the entire supply chain: «Compared to 2019, this year’s turnover is almost 10 billion euros higher. An apparently positive result, but which in reality hides the burden of inflation recorded as early as the end of 2022 – adds Feltrin -. It is sufficient to look at the Istat data on industrial production to interpret the data: in the first 11 months of 2023, industrial production of furniture recorded a decline of 5.3% and that of wood of 14.8%. Less is produced, revenues still remain higher than those of the pre-Covid period due to the increase in prices, which for furniture was around 6.5%, but companies’ margins are reduced”.

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