Strong outdoor furniture market in Europe

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The outdoor furniture market in Europe is one of the best performers in the furniture sector, according to a new report focused on this sector just published by CSIL. Total annual sales of outdoor furniture in Europe are estimated by CSIL to be around €3.3 billion. Following a slight reduction in 2020 the sector recorded a double-digit rebound in 2021, well above the sector average.

The largest outdoor furniture markets within Europe are Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy, accounting for a combined market share of over 50%. According to CSIL, consumption of outdoor furniture in Europe is expected to continue to increase in 2022 and 2023.

During the first part of the pandemic (2020) the drop of the outdoor furniture market was contained. Good retail sales offset a sharp decline in contract sales. However, starting from 2021 most manufacturers also experienced a rebound of the contract sector as many activities put on hold the previous year were restarted.

The hospitality industry is an component of outdoor furniture demand in Europe. Official Eurostat statistics released by Eurostat and reported by CSIL show a significant fall in the number of hotels in Europe in 2020 as a main consequence of Covid-19.

However, with some of the world's most popular tourist destinations, Europe has seen a revival in domestic and inter-regional travel in the past year. International arrivals to Europe increased nearly 75% in 2021.

There is now optimism that delayed projects in the hotel and wider tourist sector will soon be completed.

According to data from Lodging Econometrics at the end of 2021, Europe's hotel construction pipeline stood at 1,824 projects and nearly 300,000 rooms. A further 474 new hotels and 70,000 rooms are expected to open in 2022 and 504 new hotels with 75,015 rooms in 2023.

The outdoor sector is much more dependent on imports than other furniture sectors in Europe. Slightly more than half of all outdoor furniture imported by EU countries is from countries outside the EU, with around 60% of nonEU imports derived from China and 30% from tropical countries in Southeast Asia.

There has been a long term rising trend in European imports of outdoor furniture from outside the region, although CSIL believes that recent factors, such as the raw materials shortages and high freight rates may lead to a partial reshoring of sourcing activities in the next few years.

CSIL note that the outdoor furniture market is served via a wide variety of channels, both specialist and non-specialist distributors, from large scale retail chains to small independent stores, and from 'pure' online players to brickand-mortar operators.

Overall the role of non-specialist retailers is higher in this sector than for most other furniture sectors such as upholstery, kitchen furniture, and office furniture. DIY chains and garden centres are still pivotal sales channels.

However, there has been some growth in sales via more specialist retailers in recent years, first as the large-scale furniture chains expanded outdoor collections and more recently as more independent retailers are promoting designer outdoor brands.

The e-commerce channel is also growing rapidly. Both manufacturers and retailers are extending their web marketing activity and upgrading their on-line presence.

No longer do they only display product pictures and prices, but also seek to guide and inspire customers with design suggestions and case studies.

On design and fashion trends, CSIL highlight the increased focus on the interaction between indoor and outdoor spaces within the home. Already a feature of the market before the pandemic, it has become even more significant during the lockdown period as consumers were encouraged to enhance their home living experience.

More people have been turning outdoor areas into a 'green living-rooms'. The borders between indoors and outdoors are merging and there is more demand for dual purpose furniture items that can be moved inside and out. With high levels of urbanisation, there is particular demand for furnishings for smaller gardens, roof terraces and balconies.

Manufacturers are responding by producing narrow tables and loungers and more multifunctional items, whose backs, arms and sitting areas can be readily adjusted or repositioned, to offer flexibility. Just as living rooms are moving outdoors, so too are dining rooms. Manufacturers are now developing flexible open-air dining room furnishings such as extendable tables. Teak is still popular, but more often than not it is combined with other materials such as aluminium, ceramic, and waterproof outdoor fabrics. And the strong focus on sustainability, low environmental impact, and use of “natural” and “ecofriendly” materials only grows stronger in Europe.