Furniture is in the top tier of manufacturing sectors, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The new data highlights the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on UK manufacturing – including the furniture sector - in 2020.

The British Furniture Manufacturers' (BFM) 2020 Market Review is based on the ONS’ recently released estimates for UK manufacturers’ sales-by-product for 2020.

BFM MD Nick Garratt says: “Overall, the ONS figures show that lockdowns and business closures saw the general furniture market drop by -7% last year compared to 2019.

“Given the challenges posed by the pandemic, the sector performed well when compared to the total value of UK manufacturers’ product sales, which fell by -10.8%, with declines in almost all manufacturing divisions, including motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers which fell -25% in 2020.”

The latest ONS data reflects the pandemic-driven shift to people staying at – and working from – home, with the hardest hit being contract wooden shop furniture, which was down by -34%, while household wooden kitchen furniture saw a notable increase of +9%.

Nick adds: “As we emerge from lockdown, furniture manufacturers are showing a high degree of confidence going forward, with sustained levels of demand, although labour shortages are becoming a concern. Feedback from our members shows an increasing frustration in being unable to find staff and many factories now have order backlogs of up to four or five months as a result.”

Figures show the furniture sector was performing well pre-pandemic, with the number of enterprises in furniture manufacturing in 2019 being approximately the same as a decade ago at 6355, while employee numbers have increased annually over the last five years to more than 95,000 people.

Data from the latest BFM Trade Survey showed 42% expected to recruit new staff in the next six months, while 84% were more confident about the general business situation than in October last year.

BFM’s 2020 Market Review is available in the members’ area of the BFM website.