Furniture makers increase share of UK manufacturing output

Britain’s furniture manufacturers represent an increasing share of overall UK manufacturing output, a new report has shown.

Britain’s furniture makers represent an increasing share of overall UK manufacturing output – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

While some of the growth of the furniture sector has been fed by rising imports, UK furniture makers have also benefited, with 2016 being the latest in five successive years of incremental growth, a report by the Furniture Industry Research Association has shown.

The report’s analyses are based on latest available data sourced from Government bodies including the Office for National Statistics (ONS), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Communities and Local Government, and the Bank of England.

One of the main headlines within the report is consumer demand for furniture and furnishings continuing to grow.

Turning to consumer expenditure on furniture and furnishings; this was almost £16.7bn in 2016, representing a 24% increase from 2013. Year-on-year growth from 2013 to 2015 was between 8-9%. However, growth from 2015 to 2016 was somewhat less, at 6%.

UK furniture manufacturers have continued to perform well over recent years with 2016 turnover reaching £8.4bn; 4.5% higher than the previous year.

Furniture warranted special mention in the latest statistics office manufacturing bulletin, highlighting that the recent percentage increase in sales was the third largest in the UK (behind motor vehicles and pharmaceuticals) and was driven by sales of wooden kitchen furniture and upholstered wooden framed seats such as three-piece suites.

Putting this growth in context, in 2013 furniture manufacturing equated to 1.35% of the UK’s total manufacturing turnover, whereas by 2016 it was estimated to have increased to 1.60%.

Rising employment figures underline importance of UK furniture sector  

Latest employment figures reinforce the importance of the industry to the UK economy with furniture manufacturing’s 88,000 employees representing almost 3.5% of the country’s manufacturing workforce.

It is estimated that the furniture and furnishings sector as a whole, including manufacturing, design, specialist retail, trade and repair comprises 50,000 registered companies supporting 327,000 jobs.

The Assocaition’s Dr Peter Beele commented: “Imports were on the rise, with the provisional figure for 2016 being £5.8bn. However, based on extrapolations of import data published up to September 2017, I expect that the total for 2017 could increase to about £6.5bn once the full year’s figures are confirmed”.

Imports are not the full story as export performance has also improved, perhaps due to the influence of a weaker pound and an industry more comfortable with trading abroad.

Exports reached £1.13bn in 2016, reflecting a year on year increase of 13%. A further 9% growth is expected when 2017 figures are published.

Sector focuses on trading relationships with EU

With Brexit on the horizon there is an inevitable focus on the UK’s trading relationships with the European Union. Despite 63% of all exports being sent to the EU it accounts for a considerably greater value of imports, resulting in a negative trade gap of £2.20bn.

The largest single country negative trade gap continues to be with China. This increased to £1.86bn (from £1.75bn in 2015). Next on the list were the negative trade gaps with Poland, Italy and Germany, which equated to £0.58bn, £0.56bn and £0.50bn respectively.