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Eastern Europe's Office Furniture Market Painstakingly Fights Its Way Back

After a dramatic decline of 17.7% in 2020, the office furniture market in Eastern Europe will slowly get back on track this year (+8.7%) and should be back to pre-crisis levels by 2023 from today’s perspective, a new study by Interconnection Consulting shows.

The impact of the pandemic on the countries of Eastern Europe was varying. The volume of business in the office furniture market in Ukraine fell by 22.9%, in Slovenia by only 10.9%. While Poland and Romania, in addition to Slovenia, came through the crisis relatively unscathed, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Russia also lost about one fifth of their business last year. The concept of short-time work and home office was not as widespread in Eastern Europe as in Western Europe. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that the trend towards home office will also hit Eastern Europe and that in the future sales will show a higher segmentation or differentiation, states Katarina Gajdova, the author of the study.

Home Office as a Game Changer

Although many companies suffered sales losses of between 10 and 60%, they were mostly saved by government bailouts, so that the insolvency rate was hardly higher than in the pre-Corona period. However, this could lead all the more to structural crises in the industry after the crisis, as Gajdova fears. “Companies that do not meet the new requirements of the market in time could soon find themselves in trouble or be swallowed up by healthy companies,” she says. “In any case, we expect high dynamics in the M&A market,” Gajdova says. The study shows that companies with an established online sales service and companies in the luxury segment are more resistant to the changes in the market. The game changer responsible for this is primarily the home office. Another trend is customising, i.e. adapting products to individual customer needs.

Swivel Chairs Defy The Crisis

Swivel chairs hold a market share of about 25% in Eastern Europe with an expected turnover of 368 million euros, making them the product segment with the highest turnover, just ahead of office desks. Despite the high market share, sales of swivel chairs are growing faster than the industry average, which also has to do with the home office trend. An upswing in pandemic times was naturally experienced by partition systems, which will be the only product group to grow more strongly in 2021 (+11.6%) than swivel chairs (+10.9%), but still have a relatively low market share of 7.5%.  Overall, the ratio of private to public sector customers is 86 to 14. The top companies in the Eastern European market are, in alphabetical order: Antares, Balma, Felix, Flokk, Kinnarps, MDD, Nowy Styl, Steelcase, Techno/Ahrend.

The study examined the following markets: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Slovenia.

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Home Office Changes The Office Market

The office furniture market in Western Europe experienced a major slump last year due to the pandemic. Sales volumes plummeted by 19.5%. From 2021, the painstaking road to recovery will start. This year, the market will grow by 8%. However, the pre-crisis level will not be achieved again until the end of 2023. The trend towards home offices will plunge many producers into existential crises, as shown in a study by Interconnection Consulting.

The markets of Southern Europe in particular experienced huge crashes in 2020. Spain was hit the hardest with a decline of 26.0%. But also in Italy, France and Great Britain, the decline in the office furniture market was dramatic with more than 20%. This has also shaken up the country shares of the total office furniture market in Western Europe somewhat. The German market, with a share of 28.5%, is now almost as large as the second-placed British and third-placed French markets combined. Italy, a country of 60 million inhabitants, has been overtaken by Switzerland and holds about a quarter of Germany’s market volume this year. Spain has a market share of 5.8%, just ahead of Sweden.

Home Office As A Game Changer

The number of insolvencies did not increase in 2020 and 2021, despite high sales losses, due to the government’s cash injections. “However, this could change very soon for companies with structural problems,” Katarina Gajdova explains. In this context, the increased home office will develop as a game-changer. Companies that do not meet the new market requirements in time could soon find themselves in dire straits, which will also bring movement to the M&A market. Especially companies with an established online sales service as well as companies in the luxury segment are more resistant to the changes in the market, the study shows. In addition to home office, the study highlights the ever-increasing importance of online retailing, ergonomic solutions and the trend towards customising, i.e. adapting to individual customer interests.

Office Dividers On The Up

It is precisely the trend towards home offices that has saved the swivel chair product segment, which is also the largest product group with an expected turnover of 1.7 billion euros. With an increase of 9.5%, the segment is also growing far above the industry average. Office desks follow with just under 1.6 billion euros. Naturally, partition systems experienced an upswing in pandemic times and will be the only product group to grow in the double-digit range in 2021. Overall, the ratio of private to public sector customers is 85 to 15. The top companies in the Western European market are, in alphabetical order: Antares, Balma, Felix, Flokk, Kinnarps, Kraft, MDD, Nowy Styl, Techno/Ahrend.

 

The study examined the following markets: Great Britain, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.

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