Growth that goes beyond international uncertainties

Waiting to see the effects of tariffs on trade and production, the US furniture industry is going through a positive phase, above all thanks to solid performance of the real estate sector. Online sales figures are still reporting double-digit growth

ICFF, Javits Center
ICFF, Javits Center

After a positive 2018, this year the US economy has to cope with the uncertainties that are emerging in international trade, which point to the prospect of a slow-down. The home furnishings industry is to some extent on standby, waiting to see the impact of tariffs on imports of materials across the manufacturing sector in general. The increase in production costs will probably be passed on to consumers. The recent easing of tension with China, however, offers some hope in this regard. The largest flow of worldwide furniture trade is that between the USA and China, in fact, which the Centre for Industrial Studies (CSIL) estimates at a level of about 20 billion dollars.

Another encouraging signal for American furniture comes from the boom of small residential construction: the short-term forecast of the Deloitte market consulting firm points to the creation of 1,350,000 units per year. This trend will drive the market of furnishings and accessories for the home. The generation of the millennials – young adults entering the housing market – plays an essential role in the evolution of this real estate category, but women  are an even more important factor, indicated by Harvard Business Review as the decision makers behind 94% of home furniture purchases.

According to the market data portal Statista, in 2018 furniture sales grew by 4% in the United States, reaching a total of 340 billion 270 million dollars. In line with the forecasts of the National Retail Federation, the growth trend that has lasted for a decade at this point should continue in 2019 and will probably extend at least to 2023, also thanks to the solid real estate sector and low unemployment.

The importance of e-commerce also continues to grow. While in recent years its rate of expansion has slowed slightly, it remains in double digits, as confirmed by last year’s rise of +11.3%. The outlook is for 27% of furniture sales taking place online by 2021. Nearly half of this market is presently dominated by Amazon.

According the CSIL data, the United States represent the world’s second largest producer of furniture – after China, and ahead of Germany and Italy – and the biggest importer. In the first 8 months of 2018, the USA was at third place in the rankings of Italian furniture exports.