Interior design and furniture

An Expert's View about Furniture in Italy

Posted on: 31 Dec 2011

The total number of companies active in the furniture industry is 33,140.

The Design Sector in Italy: Interior design and furniture Italian manufacturers need UK creativity as much as UK designers need Italian craftsmanship and manufacturers. For British furniture and design, Italy is perceived as a gateway to other countries. Market overview Italy has a population of 60.6 million and an average per-capita income of 22,000 Euros (the Lombardy region has the highest, ie €23,930). With a production turnover of €21.301 bn in 2010 (+1.8% over 2009) and exports worth €10.004 bn for the whole furniture industry, Italy is the number one manufacturer in Europe, the second largest world manufacturer after the USA and the second largest exporter of furniture after China, followed by Germany and Poland. The total number of companies active in the furniture industry is 33,140 (updated December 2010) of which 86% employ less than 10 people. Imports are steadily rising, with an increase of 18% in 2010 over 2009 and a value of €3.11 bm. Domestic consumption has increased by 2% over 2009 (€4 bn), showing a much better trend compared to the past few years. Based on the Italian Retailers’ Association, in Italy purchases of furniture and household appliances account for the highest consumption share in Europe – 7.5% of total consumption, compared to 5.2% in the United Kingdom. A strong local industry organised in production clusters, the predominance of SMEs which ensure high flexibility and product differentiation, a strong design and quality culture which supports the “made in Italy” brand, steady consumption rates of furniture, a strong concentration of furniture/furnishing dealers and shops in the main cities, an increasing trend to include furniture and design products within “lifestyle or concept stores” make of Italy an opportunity country for British designers and a challenging market for furniture manufacturers. The distribution of furniture in Italy is very fragmented compared to other European markets. Out of 22,000 retailers of furniture (compared to 12,000 in the UK) 60% are traditional independent shops (versus 32% in the UK). However also in Italy the number of furniture chain stores and multiples is steadily increasing. For British furniture and design products, Italy is often perceived as a gateway to sell to other countries where demand for furniture is constantly growing such as Russia (+4%), Turkey (+4%), China (+8%), the Arab countries (+4-5%). Key opportunities The Interior Design market sector in Italy has shown a strong development over recent years. The number of interior designers and architects in Italy is huge and steadily increasing, even if AIPI (Italian Association of Interior Designers) counts 300 members only. In particular, the Milan area in Lombardy has a long-standing tradition for being one of the world's leading furniture and lighting manufacturing cluster. The Lombardy region hosts a myriad of SMEs that are active in the design, prototyping, development, production, sub-contracting of furniture- related products and complements. This local strength in terms of know-how, skilled workforce, capability to supply even the smallest, ad-hoc developed components has increasingly attracted international designers who work with local companies and exchange expertise. Especially British designers have always found a particularly fertile ground in Italy to develop and implement their creative ideas. Interior design studios based in Italy, and especially in Lombardy, increasingly look at British brands and designers for both contract and residential projects in Italy, Russia and the Arab countries. Milan is also the place where the most important furniture and furnishing fair in the world is located and held every year. All trade journalists, furniture manufacturers, distributors, designers and opinion leaders have a strong focus on Milan. ξ The Italian furniture industry offers tremendous opportunities for talented British designers. World-famous Italian brands of furniture, upholstered products, kitchen and bathroom furniture and fittings, lighting, textile furnishings increasingly use international designers in their search for innovative and functional solutions. Good design solutions are those which combine an aesthetic value with a functional value. New materials, new technology, energy-saving and environment-friendly solutions are increasingly demanded by manufacturers to be competitive in the very challenging design environment. ξ British designers have a very important occasion of showing their prototypes and products to the world's industry during the annual International Furniture Fair (Salone Internazionale del Mobile) which is held every April at the Milan fairground and at off-site exhibition grounds and venues. ξ Euroluce (International exhibition of lighting and lamps), Eurocucina (International exhibition of kitchen and bathroom furniture) and SaloneUfficio (International exhibition of office furniture) are biennial exhibitions held every other year during the Furniture Fair. The Furniture Fair has a separate hall dedicated to young designers and colleges called SaloneSatellite. British designers and schools are usually among the most represented in this hall, an evidence of the wealth of talent and creativity supported by British colleges. ξ British manufacturers of furniture and interiors solution exhibit in Milan to show their products to international buyers and often to find agents or distributors. ξ British exhibitors at the Furniture Show are usually split between two sections: classic furniture on one side and contemporary furniture and lighting on the other. British traditional furniture includes copies of original styles from classical periods, often hand- crafted using the best wood essences, as well as traditional leather and upholstered sofas and armchairs. This is a very niche market in Italy, as British companies have very strong local competitors in regional manufacturing clusters. ξ Contemporary furniture, lighting and interiors solutions can find an easier way to the Italian market – both in the residential and contract markets – if distributed by qualified and professional companies or agents. Contract furnishings solutions have good market prospects in Italy mainly in the fashion and tourism sectors, due to the high number of independent retailers and chains of shops, mainly of fashion, and to the distribution of hotels, restaurants and spas all over the country. Latest export opportunities –Italy Latest export opportunities– Household goods, Furniture & Furnishings Getting into the market ξ Designers can offer their design solutions to local manufacturers under a licence agreement on individual products or a range of products. Obtaining an introduction to local manufacturers is very difficult and only the most innovative projects are accepted if and when the company finds that the design solution proposed is in line with its own strategy or philosophy. ξ Manufacturers or designers with their own manufacturing facility (in the UK or elsewhere) need a professional distributor or agent to be able to sell to the appropriate retail market and to local interior design firms. A few retailers of furniture have recently started also a distribution activity at their showrooms which have therefore become reference venues during the Milan Design Week. Usually these lifestyle showrooms sell and represent a mix of brands of home and fashion product. ξ Exhibiting at the local fairs, mainly the International Furniture Fair, can offer British designers, design studios and companies the chance of meeting buyers/potential agents and architects. Also alternative and parallel exhibitions held at off-site venues can be effective, because during the Design Week many areas of Milan become "off-site targets" of international visitors. ξ Interior design and home magazines are very effective tools to promote new designers and products. Visibility during the Milan Design Week is important in view of press coverage. More about doing business inItaly Contacts Market intelligence is critical when doing business overseas, and UKTI can provide bespoke market research and support during overseas visits though our chargeable Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS). To commission research or for general advice about the market, get in touch with our specialists in country - or contact your local international trade team. ξ Marina Iremonger , Trade Adviser, Head of Fashion & Design Unit, British Consulate General Milan. Tel: +39 02 72300257 or email: Contact your local international trade team Events UKTI runs a range of events for exporters, including seminars in the UK, trade missions to overseas markets and support for attendance at overseas trade shows. Salone Internazionale del Mobile , International Furniture Fair , Milan Date: 17-22 April 2012 Website address: Macef International Home Show, Decoration/Textile Furnishings/Garden Furniture/Tableware/Silverware/Jewellery, Milan Date: 26-29 January 2012 Website address: MADEexpo International Architecture/Design/Construction Fair, Milan Date: 17-20 October 2012 Website address: Latest events –Household goods, Furniture & Furnishings Useful links More about OMIS and other UKTI services for exporters
Posted: 31 December 2011