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The Italian Way: The future of the furniture industry

Wednesday 22 Jul 2020

The fourth The Italian Way event, organised by UniCredit in collaboration with Confindustria Veneto, looked at how companies in the furniture industry can prosper and restart

Furniture and interior design is amongst the most distinctive Made in Italy sectors and is recognised globally, especially the wood furniture industry. It is also a crucial sector for Italy’s economy with 73,000companies employing 310,000 people and generating a turnover of €42.5 billion.

This sector was also heavily impacted by the Covid-19 crisis but there are signs emerging that will help the recovery: the healthy income and capital situation most companies face, the growing success of e-commerce and increased internationalisation.

The fourth The Italian Way event, dedicated to the furniture industry, was held on 13 July in Verona in partnership with Confindustria Veneto, the Veneto regional branch of the General Confederation of Italian Industry.

Joining the discussion on how to restart the sector were Remo Taricani (Co-CEO Commercial Banking Italy UniCredit), Luisella Altare (Regional Manager North Est UniCredit), Enrico Carraro, (President Confindustria Veneto and President Gruppo Carraro), Denise Archiutti (Coordinator Wood & Furniture Sector Confindustria Veneto, Group Controller and Administrative Advisor Veneta Cucine S.p.A.), Claudio Feltrin (President Arper S.p.A. and President Assarredo), Daniele Lago (CEO & Head of Design Lago S.p.A.), Giulia Molteni (Head of Marketing & Communication Molteni Group) e Roberta Antinarella, Industry Expert UniCredit. The event was moderated by Cristiano Seganfreddo chairman at Flash Art.


UniCredit Sector report


Situation before Covid

Companies in the furniture sector were in a healthy state before the pandemic, with good liquidity levels and growing productivity.


Covid impact on the furniture sector

There are two possible scenarios for the future of the Isector: both predict a sharp decrease in turnover in 2020 and an improvement in 2021. In the “Soft” scenario the sector loses 17% of its value compared to 2019 with a potential improvement in 2021 that could almost fill the gap lost. In the “hard” scenario the loss is around 1/4 of 2019 turnover but with a potential sales bounce of more than 27% in 2021.


Impact amongst furniture sub-sectors won’t be the same

Some sub-sectors of the furniture industry are less impacted by this negative period as not all purchases are subject to customer delays. In particular, kitchen, bedroom and living area furniture should be less affected. The most penalised areas will be office and shop furniture.


Size matters

Looking at the different segments of Italian companies in the furniture sector, margins grow based on company size. The industry is characterised by many small companies and artisans that could struggle to have the resources to restart and prosper.


The pillars to restart: innovation and flexibility

In the post-covid era, relaunch of Italian furniture companies will be connected to new consumer habits and sharp e-commerce growth. This  is changing the trading environment and the organisation models of many companies: flexibility will increase and so will multi-channel sales.

Speaker quotes

Enrico Carraro, President Confindustria Veneto and President Gruppo Carraro

“The wood furniture sector is a sector characterised by a high level of production from the Veneto region. The sector has suffered due to the lockdown but has the potential to restart. Company size remains crucial in order to be competitive on the global markets. This is why we must make our companies in the design and furniture sector grow, including the top companies and big brands that lead the way”

Denise Archiutti (Coordinator Wood Furniture Sector Confindustria Veneto, Group Controller and Administrative Advisor Veneta Cucine S.p.A.)

“The lockdown was very tough for all of us but there are opportunities for the furniture sector. This period has made Italians realise more and more how important their homes are and that it is on top of most of everyone’s priorities”

Daniele Lago, CEO & Head of Design Lago S.p.A

“Design has taught me to concentrate on things that can be changed rather than those that can’t. Covid can and should become an opportunity to accelerate different innovation processes. Technology and digital culture will certainly be very important but I believe empathy with the rest of the furniture community will also take centre stage in companies’ future endeavors”

Claudio Feltrin, President Arper S.p.A. e President Assarredo

“To restart, companies in the sector need to be able to read the new context in which our behaviors, habits and interpersonal relations and spaces will change. I think flexibility will be key to restarting: . homes will become an extension of our working environment. Offices will also change and so will the buildings where they are based. It will be a challenge but also a big opportunity for Italian design”

Giulia Molteni, Head of Marketing & Communication Molteni Group

“We have experienced a digital acceleration. How? Working on synergies with our 12 offices around the world: working on system performance, problem solving and relationship dynamics to strengthen our team and consolidate our community. But we also worked on L&D and management development for our professionals with courses and tutorials. We redesigned our internal marketing & communications to reach our people and clients more efficiently”

Cristiano Seganfreddo – Chairman Flash Art

“The big social and economic themes that are changing the economy, have always been integrated in the Italian design system. The industry isn’t just about drawing, tradition, durability, technological innovation and aesthetics but also about cultural and social sustainability. Key values need to become the backbone of the relationship with customers and with foreign markets, with a stronger focus on communication, on digital, on lifestyle and on new latitudes”

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