EU wooden furniture imports from SEA sees decline in 2016

The value of furniture imports from tropical suppliers fell in 2016. Imports from Vietnam were down two per cent to EUR 716 million; from Indonesia, six per cent to EUR 299 million; from Malaysia, five per cent to EUR 183 million; from Thailand, 18 per cent to EUR 63 million and from Brazil, three per cent to Euro 118 million.

India was the exception, increasing sales to the EU by 10 per cent in 2016, to EUR 179 million. Furniture products from tropical countries remained around 28 per cent in the past four years. However, Vietnam’s share increased during this period at the expense of other Southeast Asian countries, and to some extent, China. Other temperate supplying countries outside the EU – including Turkey, Serbia, Ukraine and Belarus – have also been increasing share at the expense of China and tropical countries other than Vietnam. Meanwhile, Europe’s domestic manufacturers are maintaining their dominant position in the European wooden furniture market.

In 2016, European manufacturers accounted for around 87 per cent for the total value of wooden furniture supplied to the EU market, the same proportion since 2007. There are many reasons for the continuing dominance of domestic manufacturers, one being weakening European currencies in the past two years – particularly the Sterling Pound – against the Dollar and Chinese yuan.

Other enduring factors include the relatively high degree of fragmentation in the European retailing sector – which greatly complicates market access for overseas suppliers; the underlying strength of European furniture manufacturers and their brands in terms of innovation and design; obstacles to overseas suppliers complying with European technical and environmental standards; and the expansion of furniture manufacturing in Eastern Europe, a location which combines ready access to raw materials and to the internal EU market.

Although labour costs are quite high in Europe relative to China and South East Asia, furniture manufacturers in the EU have a shorter supply chain, which not only reduces transport costs but also allow products to be delivered and, if necessary, returned more rapidly.