Information from FIRA's Statistics Digest, released at the end of 2013 and summaried in this month's issue, hints at a small recovery for furniture manufacturing in the UK, but this improvement is overshadowed by poor export performance and China gaining a massive foothold of the import market.

The report contains key information about current furniture industry market trends, essential for strategic business planning.

Statistics from the digest, combined with anecdotal evidence, also show that the general public appears to be happy to lend (and spend) more money, and housing starts and transactions are up (although nowhere near the pre-2008 figures). These are all positive signs for the UK furniture sector, which manufactured £6.5b of product in 2012.

The significance of imported furniture is reflected by the fact that, at between £4.3 and £4.5b, it comprises 40% of the home market. Predictions are that this will have increased slightly by the end of 2013. Exports, however, have remained relatively static for many years, and struggle to reach the £1b level.

Dr Peter Beele, FIRA International’s technical development manager, comments: “Whilst the differences between the latest Government figures (2012) and the previous year are relatively small, they indicate key longer-term trends and show some interesting anomalies. For example, furniture manufacturing is an important contributor to UK manufacturing, but, of greater importance to Government, employs many more people per pound of turnover than most other sectors.

“Our Statistics Digest does much of the hard work and number crunching that would otherwise be a laborious task for strategic planners and, as any good MD, or bank, will attest, understanding current market trends, and predicting future developments are critical components of business planning. We are pleased to announce the release of this year’s publication which is now available on our website.”

The Statistics Digest comprises almost 40 pages of facts, figures and commentary covering production and international trade for a wide range of product groups. It also assesses some of the key drivers behind furniture spend such as lending and house purchasing patterns.

The Statistics Digest is available free of charge to Association members or can be purchased for £300 from the FIRA website.