SICAM 2017: a strategic appointment for the international furniture sector

10th October 2017

Furniture professionals in Pordenone to consolidate business growth and initiate new international enterprises

SICAM 2017 features 583 exhibitors from Italy and 35 other countries: about 70% of participants are Italian, but the presence of many foreign companies confirms that SICAM remains a focal point for the sector’s top design and technology international offer thanks to the presence of the most qualified and prestigious players in this industry. SICAM 2017 comes at a time characterised by encouraging signals for the global furniture industry: the market continues expanding, with a +2.4% increase in furniture world trade and a growth that is almost double in terms of value. In 2017 – according to World Furniture Outlook 2017 drawn up by CISL (Centre for Industrial Studies) – there should be an overall increase of 3%, which for international furniture companies means considerable development potential. Today the international furniture market shows interesting prospects for the future: according to the recent macroeconomic scenarios outlined by Prometeia and the International Monetary Fund, 2018-2019 should see a further strengthening of Italian economic recovery and furniture exports particularly should grow an average 2.5% in 2017-2019. In this context, the “Made in Italy” design is on the rise in the global furniture trade sector and confirms its 3rd place, taking up about 8% of a market that today as a whole is worth about 395 billion dollars. The demand for Italian furniture grows worldwide: the statistics for furniture and lighting products world trade presented by FLA Learning Centre highlight that excluding 2008 and 2009, when there was a clear economic slowdown, the export of “Made in Italy” design has registered a constant upward trend for the last twenty years.

If, as it seems, the most difficult period of international market crisis is over, the time has come for furniture companies to go back to thinking in terms of growth. Data contained in a Pambianco Strategie di Impresa study show how it is the world market of furniture-design as a whole that continues to grow: the value of the sector’s world commerce increased by 340 billion dollars in 2014 and by 378 billion dollars last year, with an average annual growth of 6%, and a forecast of 395 billion dollars for the current year. It is important to note that Europe, nowadays a “domestic market” for Italian companies, continues to be the area with the highest consumption of design products (106 billion dollars, compared to 99 billion dollars in the USA and 75 billion dollars in China). International markets however are currently going through a period of great uncertainty, an aspect that has considerable implications especially for Italian companies that are struggling with unresolved structural problems: Brexit and the circumstances related to the new American presidency with the international trade treaties becoming matter of discussion, might originate new unknown scenarios that, with the slowing down of the growth of emerging markets, could in 2017 limit the global export of “Made in Italy” furniture. The large markets (China and USA) continue to grow at a rate of over 3%, and Europe too, yet unevenly, continues to give signs of recovery – a particularly important and positive element for Italian industry, as Europe absorbs more than 50% of Italian furniture exports.

In this context, Italian furniture industry has taken the lead in the sector’s top range (based on data supplied by Fondazione Altagamma and Bain&Company, Italian furniture industry holds 30% of the global quota, compared to the 20% held by Germany and the USA), while it has dropped to third place in the ranking of international exporters, overtaken by China and Germany and challenged by new players such as Poland. Italian furniture industry therefore has to deal with competitors operating in different segments: in fact, while China basically addresses the lower layers of the market, Germany has already consolidated its lead over the Italian industry in the same market segment, although it is generally believed that Italian companies are still very competitive, more so than the German, regarding top-level range products where the design-factor is prevalent. Italy and Germany are leaders in the fair and production sector, two aspects that go together: it is no coincidence that in the major world exhibitions Italian and German companies predominate – the top accessories and components fairs are in fact held in Germany and Italy.

The current scenario, characterised by a clear evolution of world markets, and the more balanced prospects of development outlined by professionals of the sector indicate that, in order to achieve future growth, furniture companies must activate strategies intensifying the internationalisation process, a key factor towards company revenues and profit margins. Therefore, on the one hand, it is crucial to safeguard the established and mature markets (Europe will always hold an essential role in the sector) and, on the other, to open business relations with markets with faster growth and stability potential (such as India, Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and China itself). The new elements that the latest studies and analyses of the sector have clearly highlighted are that companies should not only take care of their products’ quality, design and price, but also carefully oversee factors that are usually less considered in business, such as the structure of commercial distribution.

Against this backdrop, SICAM takes on a role that is ever more strategic for international furniture companies: SICAM has always been a highly international fair, and the business relations that take place here have always been characterised by the presence of top range players. The data on the participants at SICAM 2016 clearly confirm this: 7.378 companies from 101 different countries (including Italy of course) came to Pordenone last year, with over 36% of visitors from abroad. Over 37% of registered visitors at SICAM 2016 were company owners or general directors – that is those in charge of taking the final decisions in terms of commercial strategies and purchases. Designers and architects were 9% of registered visitors, and another 9% was covered by technical and production managers: a highly qualified audience of professionals working in the international furniture industry acknowledging SICAM as an unmissable venue for the international community of the furniture industry.