The Belgian furniture industry in 2022

Energy crisis puts a damper on sales

In the furniture industry, sales fell slightly in 2022 by 0.2% in value, following a 9.9% increase in 2021. As a result of the 13.8% increase in sales prices, sales volume decreased by 14.0%. The trend toward interior renovation, initiated during the coronavirus pandemic, came to an end with the end of the pandemic. Moreover, the uncertainty surrounding the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis made consumers hold back. Compared to before the coronavirus pandemic, furniture sales in 2022 were 8.4% higher (in value terms), but in volume terms there was a 14.1% decrease.

Office and retail furniture grew 17.1% in value and fell 1.7% in volume. Kitchen furniture still held up reasonably well (+6.7% in value and -6.0% in volume). Domestic furniture took a hit: -16% in volume as sales remained reasonably stable. However, mattresses and bed bases experienced a decline of 32.3% in value and 35.3% in volume.


Consumer confidence gradually improves

Consumer confidence reached an all-time low in September 2022, both in Belgium and the EU. The slump was even greater than during the coronavirus crisis. From October 2022, Belgian and European consumer sentiment improved very gradually. Belgian consumers are generally more positive than the average European consumer. But it will still take some time for confidence to return to a level that sees consumers opening their wallets without thinking.

Evolution of turnover by product group

Evolution in volume 22/21 Evolution in value 22/21 Turnover in billion € 2022
Chairs and seating, dining-room, bedroom, bathroom, garden and terrace furniture -16,0 % -0,3 % 1,0
Office and retail furniture -1,7 % 17,1 % 0,6
Kitchen furniture -6,0 % 6,7 % 0,5
Mattresses and bed frames -35,3 % -32,3 % 0,2
FURNITURE INDUSTRY ** -14,0 % -0,2 % 2,3

* Provisional data / ** Furniture industry nace 31 / Source: FPS Economy, VAT returns

Business confidence sinks to low point

Business confidence in the furniture industry rose to its highest level since the coronavirus crisis by mid-2021. Since then, a decline has begun. By the end of 2022, business confidence dropped to well below its mid-2020s low in full coronavirus pandemic conditions. So it went from high to (very) low.

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Exports and imports of furniture decline

Belgian furniture exports (including transit) decreased by 6.1% in 2022. 89.1% of furniture exports go to the EU market, where deliveries declined by 6%. Deliveries to France, the most important export market with a 38.1% share, decreased by 4.5%. On the Dutch market – at 24% the second most important export market – and the German market – at 14.1% the third most important customer – deliveries declined by 7.7% and 5.2%, respectively.

The United Kingdom, the main export market outside the EU (2.6% share), took less furniture in 2022 (-18.1%), after a sharp increase in 2021 (+70.4%). The US market – with a 2.4% share, the second most important export market outside the EU – saw increased furniture supplies, with an increase of 15%.

Furniture imports were down 14.1%, after rising 30.2% in 2021. It is worth noting the decline in imports from China (-8.1%). China, with a share of 27.6%, nevertheless remains the main and, in turn, the very dominant supplier of furniture to our market. Furniture imports from the Netherlands (14.3% share) and Germany (12% share) decreased by 9.5% and 21.3%, respectively. Poland is the fourth most important supplier with a share of 8.1%, but also declining in 2022: -13.9%.

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Lower capacity did not hold back investment

Capacity dropped from 86.5% in 2021 to 82.3% in 2022, but still remained above the 2019 level (81.1%). Investments increased for the second year in a row (+15.1% in 2022).

Employment remained stable

The furniture industry employed 9,763 people in 2022. As a result, employment remained more or less at the 2021 level.

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The competitiveness crisis weighs on activity growth

High energy and raw material prices, as well as rapidly rising labour costs due to soaring inflation, are weighing upon economic activity. In addition, the energy crisis, which has not yet been fully exorcised, has led to a competitiveness crisis. On the demand side, consumers are still cautious about spending on consumer durables, such as furniture, and the economic conditions within the construction sector are not helping either.

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