The Lockdown Upturn that Saved the Furniture Industry

Alberto Vázquez Mora / Opinión

 

The mandatory closure of companies forced many employees to set up home offices so they could continue working remotely.

Despite the ravages of the SARS-CoV-2 virus over the last 18 months, the furniture sector has almost reached its maximum production capacity. The woodworking and furniture industry, including the forestry sector, specialized woodworking machinery and suppliers have confirmed that ours has been one of the sectors to “benefit” most from this global event.

This is because the mandatory closure of the majority of companies (of all types) forced employees to set up home offices so they could continue working remotely. As a result, furniture sales rose from between 5% and 20% in general.

Another factor that may have contributed to sales growth in the first quarter of 2021 was the downward trend in wood panel prices in the European Union.

But while the industry has managed to weather the health crisis, not everything has been a bed of roses. In early 2020, the industry’s outlook was optimistic, but in April, at one of the peaks of pandemic-related restrictions, sales to large and midsize companies reported an inter-annual nosedive of almost 50%, while production volumes of wood furniture was down more than 60% compared to 2019.

Adjusting projections for continued confinement measures, Mexico’s furniture industry is the second-most-important in Latin America, valued at US$2.46 billion. But even though it has a trade surplus, the raw material supply chain depends heavily on imports: in 2020, the country’s furniture sector exported goods valued at US$129 million and imported US$52 million.

To sum up, in April and May, the furniture sector took a serious blow, which was reflected across all its performance indicators. However, since June, the situation has tangibly improved, in terms not just of volumes and the value of production, but in export growth, jobs and salaries.

So what social changes are going to have an impact on the furniture sector? Firstly, omni-channel sales: “Furniture has made its way into the online ‘shopping cart’ and is there to stay: in 2020, 14% of consumers bought furniture online and spent an average of 305 euros,” says Guillermo Prats of Improvent.

According to Teresa Calderón, president of the Jalisco Furniture Manufacturers’ Association (Afamjal), this can be attributed to consumers’ new furniture needs and the improved organization of furniture manufacturers.”

“We saw a lot of benefits once we had well-organized companies. These weren’t affected at all financially,” she said. 

To reach its goals and meet its commitments to the sector, AMPIMM, along with Hannover Fairs México, aims to strengthen furniture production and supply chains. With this objective in sight, we have joined forces and organized a series of virtual and in-person events to help professionalize and train furniture manufacturers, with a view to opening up access to more options for boosting sales, said Calderón, adding that, “We will be encouraging them to make use of the digital technologies that the pandemic has popularized to improve their sales and strengthen the presence of their brands.”

There can be no denying furniture production has made a leap into the future, having been forced to make the transition from traditional production methods to today’s modern technologies that have the capacity to optimize production processes and deliver better quality products. 

But it’s not only the quality of their products manufacturers need to pay attention to these days.  They now have an obligation to use environmentally-friendly inputs and, more importantly, be seen as sustainable, inclusive and socially responsible companies.

Join us at MEM Industrial-Tecno Mueble Internacional today and tomorrow at Expo Guadalajara so we can continue discussing this and other related topics!

Alberto Vázquez Mora