Report: Italy’s Home Sector Leads Export Losses

MILAN — Exports emanating from top Italian home sector manufacturing districts underperformed in the first nine months of 2023, according to the January “District Monitor” released last week by the industry research arm of top Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo.

“The losses are more pronounced in the other sectors: following a jump in recent years, all the supply chains in the home sector have have lost ground: ranging from a drop of 6.6 percent of wood furniture, to a 7.9 percent fall in household appliances, to a 13.7 percent drop of construction products,” said the report, compiled by the unit’s economist. The report also highlighted that the metallurgical sector plunged 19.5 percent in the period.

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This performance paled in comparison to the national total. The overall balance of the districts in the first nine months of 2023 posted a 0.4 percent rise to 409 million euros. This was helped by a surge in exports of 7.4 percent in the first quarter of 2023.

District areas contributing to the fashion industry, for example, closed the first nine months of the year with a slight decline of 0.5 percent for consumer goods and a 2.1 drop for intermediate goods or non-finished goods that contribute to the production of consumer goods.

The report highlighted that certain districts were hit more than others. The chairs and furnishing accessories district of Udine, located in Italy’s northern Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, recorded a drop in exports of 13 percent in the first nine months of 2023 compared to the same period of 2022. The furniture and panels district of Pordenone, also in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, recorded a 10.2 decline, while the wood and furniture district of Treviso, in the Veneto region, reported a 10.4 percent drop and finally, the tile district of Sassuolo in Emilia-Romagna in northeast Italy plunged 14.8 percent.

The export data is in line with an earlier monitor report from FederlegnoArredo, the Italian federation of woodworking and furniture industries, which said it expects 2023 to close with a steep drop, with the value of the wood furnishing supply chain seen posting a 7 percent decline in terms of revenue, with exports falling 7.2 percent. The association predicts exports of Italian furniture in 2024 will bounce back slightly, despite falling consumer confidence and restrained spending patterns worldwide.

The organization expects the value of the wood furnishing supply chain to inch up by 2 percent in 2024, even though jitters regarding the effects a further hike in interest rates to curb inflation may have on the home furnishings industry are forecast to persist after the new year.

The effect of the mounting conflict in the Middle East remains to be seen and is increasingly becoming a top concern for industry leaders here. Worldwide, the shipping sector has already been hit by the rise of Houthi rebels targeting vessels in the Red Sea. For top Italian companies, switching shipping lanes to access top key markets in the Far East will affect everything from retail prices to net profit.