European countries are go-to for design inspiration, but also for products

HIGH POINT — European furniture is often at the top of the list for design inspiration, and 2023 furniture export statistics show continued consumer interest in home furnishings from across the pond.

However, the amount of export dollars to the United States, as well as corresponding increases or decreases, is as diverse as the cuisine within each country’s borders.

For 2023, Italy remains a top exporter to the U.S. at nearly $1.2 billion for the year. However, several additional European countries — including Poland, Spain, and Portugal — continue to focus on bringing furniture to American buyers, and numerous companies exhibiting at the upcoming High Point Furniture Market in April will introduce product developed specifically with U.S. consumers in mind.

italy map and flag idea designItaly

Lene Simon is the vice president of sales Americas for Composad, an Italian company that will show at High Point Market in April. Simon said that made in Italy “stands out worldwide,” adding that it is “almost an automatic stamp of approval for both design and quality” that obligates Composad to meet the expectation.

“We work with a few well-known U.S. and Canadian retailers and are tailoring new products for April market specifically with North America in mind,” Simon said. “Customers look to Composad for office, living, dining and bedroom furniture, and we have a very modern European look which is popular among shoppers nationwide today.

“At Composad, we are proud of our unique and sustainable production process that starts with collecting scrap wood at 30 owned and operated recycling plants in Europe,” she continued. “We have refined the process over 60 years and turn upcycled wood into board at our particle board plant, and then into furniture in our factory.”

Shape 3d of Poland map with Polish flag isolated on white background.Poland

Poland closed at nearly $297.2 million in export dollars in 2023. In Poland, there are 81 large furniture manufacturing companies, according to Tomasz Wiktorski, of B+R Studio, and the highest concentration of these companies (27) are located in the Wielkopolskie Voivodeship, with its capital in Poznań. The second largest area is the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, where there are 11 large companies.

“In Poland, a large company is classified as one that employs more than 250 workers,” Wiktorski said. “Large companies account for more than 50% of the total value of furniture production in Poland.”

Spin Furniture is one of the nearly one dozen Polish companies that exhibits at High Point Market. Export Sales Manager Kacper Straube noted that the company recently marked a significant milestone in the U.S. market.

“A couple of days ago, our first containers with furniture were received by a quite big U.S. furniture retail chain,” said Straube. “Mostly, they were models such as Lucas, Mia and Sunny, armchairs with both versions, stable and swivel. Swivel armchairs seem to be more and more interesting worldwide.

“We work on all of the markets, however our domestic Polish market is not our main target,” Straube continued. “Spin has been cooperating with many Dutch, Belgian and French groups. Moreover, with the end of 2023, new markets opened for us. These were the U.S. and UAE. So most of the interest comes from abroad, and this is the plan for the current year: to take part in exhibition events not only in Europe and States but also, Middle East or a bit more further East, like Singapore or Japan.”

Gala Meble will be at High Point Market as well. Export Department Team Leader Anna Pelc said the company is working with a U.S. retailer and anticipates adding additional U.S. buyers in April.

“We are a factory with five production plants, and we have the most modern machine park and specialized distribution center, which puts us at top of producers in Poland,” Pelc said. “We work with the largest leaders in the furniture industry in Europe, and we employ more than 700 workers in different positions. We have our own technological and quality control department, and we sell our products to the largest commercial distributors in Poland and throughout Europe.”

Pelc added that Gala Meble is a family-owned company that has been in business for more than 40 years in Poland. Products include living room, kitchen, dining room, bedroom, and storage pieces.

“Poland is the second largest furniture exporter in Europe and the third largest in the world,” she said. “We have modern technology and qualified employees. We have access to all materials for furniture production, and particle board factories are located in Poland. We are flexible to meet customer requirements.”

Katarzyna Swaryczewska is the U.S. and Canadian business manager for Homenestry, also an exhibitor at High Point Market. The company specializes in “furniture created by skilled artisans that reflects the beauty and durability hidden in local raw materials,” according to Swaryczewska.

“Homenestry is a European brand, with 100% Polish DNA, which can be seen in quality, materials, finish and, above all, design,” Swaryczewska said. “Our intention is to bring to the United States a European style that has a huge following, and our brand is a response to the needs and visions of Americans who dream of exclusive, high-end furniture created by European craftsmen. In the upcoming April edition of High Point Market, our customers will see our bestsellers showcased in a fresh light, featuring vibrant new colors, cozy fabrics, and subtly adjusted sizes.”

In addition to High Point, Homenestry participates in INDEX Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and IMM Cologne in Germany.

“We are currently finalizing the details of the agreement with several companies in the U.S. and Canada,” Swaryczewska said. “The products they are interested in are still in the discussion phase, and some of them are personalized and tailored to the individual needs of the customer.”

Intermeble “actively collaborates” with several partners in the United States,” said Patrycja Gralińska, sales manager, adding that these partnerships have played a key role in expanding the company’s reach in the American market.

“Intermeble’s American partners primarily source a variety of products, including our bedroom sets, tables, wardrobes, and living room furniture,” Gralińska said. “Our partners appreciate the versatility of the designs, durability, and ease of assembly, which have been well-received in the American market.

“To potential partners from the U.S., we aim to showcase our commitment to innovation and environmental responsibility. Intermeble’s production line is constantly evolving, incorporating eco-friendly materials and advanced manufacturing techniques. We are also proud of our efficient logistics, ensuring fast and reliable delivery.”

Noting the company’s expertise in “space-saving solutions for urban living environments,” Gralińska added that Intermeble is meeting with a significant number of international buyers from Europe and North America, including the U.S. and Canada, and is also seeing increased interest from Asian markets.

“Understanding the diverse preferences of the American market posed a challenge for Intermeble initially,” she said. “Through comprehensive market research and close collaboration with local partners, we were able to address this challenge and tailor our offerings accordingly. Polish manufacturers, such as Intermeble, known for their exceptional manufacturing, contemporary design, and competitive pricing, are perfectly suited to meet the diverse needs of the American furniture market.”

detailed illustration of a 3D map of spain with flag, eps10 vectorSpain

The United States is the third largest destination market for Spanish Furniture exports and the first international market outside of the European Union área, according to Patricia Ybarra of Anieme.

Anieme is the Spanish National Assn. of Furniture Manufacturers and Exporters of Spain and a non-profit association that has been representing the interests of the furniture industry for more than 40 years.

According to Ybarra, the main regions in Spain for furniture production are: Comunidad Valenciana, Cataluña, Madrid, Andalucía and the Region of Murcia. Top Spanish furniture manufacturers and Sellers include Kave Home, Actiu, Kettal, Andreu World, Grupo Royo, Grupo Resol, and Grupo Alvic.

The United States reached the value of 184 million euros in the first 11 months of 2023, although the U.S. imports of Spanish furniture have decreased by 5.5% during this period, Ybarra stated.

Spanish furniture manufacturers with facilities in the United States include Isimar, Alexandria, Expormim, Gandia Blasco, Actiu, Andreu World, Vondom, and Point, among others.

According to Anieme, numerous Spanish manufacturers have launched or expanded in the United States, including Actiu in Miami, Andreu World in New York, Boston, and Chicago, Point and Naturtex in New York, and Vondom in Los Angeles, Miami and New York. Additionally, Spanish manufacturers are participating in numerous global market events including Salone de Mobile, Maison Objet, and in Spain at Feria Habitat Valencia.

Portugal

Although one of the smaller European countries targeting exports to the United States, Portugal continues to support initiatives for annual growth. Gualter Morgado, executive director of Portuguese Assn. of Furniture and Related Industries (APIMA), noted that 2024 will be an active year for the organization.

“We aim to keep increasing our figures,” Morgado said. “In 2024, Portuguese companies from this sectors made more than 2 billion euros in sales to foreign markets. Around 90% of the total turnover of our brands relies on international sales so we have to keep our focus on every opportunity to promote our products, our know-how and quality.

“2023 was a very challenging year for the U.S. market,” he continued. “While the overall sales grew around 10%, the exports to the U.S. dropped slightly. This is due to a significant decrease on American consumption of this products. However, the U.S. remains the fourth main market for Portuguese companies, and we are investing on several actions to promote our brands there. We’ll have a special area on ICFF, and we are also preparing a participation in the HIS Miami.”

Morgado acknowledges that while 2024 will likely be challenging for the home furnishings industry, Portugal will continue to tell the story of its manufacturers as well as Made in Portugal quality.

“The international outlook is not the best one for business. War, inflation, disruptions in the international supply chain — all of this contributes for a reduction in consumption as well as to a retraction of investment,” he said. “But we cannot stop. We have to explore new and emerging markets, promote our unique products and decades of know-how. Our exports grew 10%, and our ambition is to keep increasing Portuguese sales both in the traditional markets for our companies, such as France, Spain and the US, but also others with high potential, as the United Arab Emirates.

“I believe that there are several factors that make Portugal’s manufacturers an appealing choice for U.S. buyers and retailers,” Morgado concluded. “The first one is craftsmanship; skilled artisans employ traditional techniques passed down through generations, resulting in high-quality, durable pieces. At the same time, a new generation of Portuguese designs brings a fresh and innovative perspective to furniture design.

“I should also emphasize the sustainability factor; Portuguese furniture manufacturers prioritize sustainability, using environmentally friendly materials and production processes. With an increasing demand for eco-friendly products in the U.S. market, Portuguese furniture does align with the values of environmentally conscious consumers.”

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