The latest official furniture production figures cover a large part of this summer’s heatwave (June and July) and the message on the high street according to the British Retail Consortium was furniture had been ‘forgotten’. But official furniture production figures tell a different story.
In June this year, BFM conducted its state of trade survey and found that a balance of 39% of respondents reported worse trading conditions that one year ago. The survey also showed that output and orders had fallen in the 4 month period to June, and compared to June 2017 output was slightly worse and the volume of order intake slightly better; but still down.
The hot weather began to take hold in June and as it continued through July, anecdotally, the clear message that came from many of our members was ‘business was awful’.
And, yet according to official figures published by in the Office of National Statistics, the second quarter of the year saw UK manufacturers produce 4.7% more furniture than in that quarter a year ago. Moreover, in both June and July this year, production levels were up on those months last year by 8.8%.
There is no ready measure of how well the contract furniture sector is performing in comparison to retail, of which there are plenty of indicators and the general consensus is that retail has struggled this year. However, from contacting a number of members in the public and private sector, it would seem that contract work - with the possible exception of education - has performed far better for a good proportion of the year, and one of the driving forces has been house building.
Official figures for July showed a 4% increase in new private builds in the month and over 9% in the year. New housing in the public sector also grew by 3% in the year. This will lead to new kitchens, bathrooms and fitted furniture etc.
Perhaps, the contract market is the driving force behind the increased production figures, which will be unrecognisable to many trading in the high street who also, you would think, should have gained some benefit from new-builds. Or, perhaps, the figures are just wrong!