A rather quiet start of the year 2021 for French Furniture

Last March, we met with Odile DUCHENNE in Paris, Director at Actineo. The opportunity for us to ask about her opinion on the ended year and on the crisis the industry is going through. And also its prospects for 2021 and the actions taken in the fight against MSDs. Interviews with the one who is also project manager for Ameublement Français

“2020 has been difficult!” Here’s how to summarize the past year. With an estimated 20% drop in revenue, the industry has suffered.

“Last spring, we projected a decline of -22% to -27%,” says the director. A better 2nd semester that probably helped to … to save what can be saved. For the project manager, there is a difference between the so called recurring market, “which has continued to invest in furniture, and the major projects market, which has been completely shut down”.

Therefor, she explains, “for some market players, fortunately, the decline will be much less severe than the one I just stated”. Before concluding: “The beginning of 2021 has been quiet but we are seeing an improvement for the coming months of April, May, June. Unfortunately, the health crisis has been aggravated by another unprecedented crisis. The shortage of raw materials! ”

High pressure on raw materials.

This commodity crisis “has a double impact on our industrial tools,” worries Odile Duchenne. Soaring material prices, and lengthening supply times, and deliveries – when these are not incomplete. And as a direct result “idle factories due to the lack of material to produce”.

A widespread situation at European level, which is due to “cyclical and structural phenomena”. On the one hand, the “Covid-19-related disorganization, with closures of production sites.” On the other, a “strong demand since the summer of 2020 for home furniture”.

Informed public authorities

“Given the unpredictability of these increases and shortages on which our manufacturer have no control, Ameublement Français has alerted the public authorities and manufacturers through an Open Letter from President Philippe Moreau”, says Ms. Duchenne.

An open letter, therefore, calling on distributors and buyers to show “understanding and kindness in the face of tariff increases.” Mr. Moreau talks about a moratorium until the end of the first half of 2021 on late payment penalties. “To cope with this soaring commodity prices, French manufacturers urgently need to pass on the impacts of tariff increases depending on the composition of their products, in order to preserve their margins,” explains the director.

For Ms. Duchenne, the situation is pretty much the same all over Europe. “In November 2020, the FEMB (European Federation of Office Furniture) launched an investigation […] with its 8 members (Germany, Italy, France, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Finland), the finding of ‘a decline in sales in 2020 was shared.’ As for the commodity crisis, “It affects the whole of Europe, and even beyond. It’s a global crisis. ”

© Ameublement français

What about the recovery ?

When asked if the recovery seems to be for 2021, Ms. Duchene expressed mixed feelings. “Hard to answer that question, in the face of so much uncertainty!”

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She continues: “Large companies in the tertiary world have begun to engage in a thorough reflection on the reorganization of work.” Needless to say, with the rise of “forced” telecommuting, it’s hard to make decisions. Depending on how large it will be, there will inevitably be an impact on office buildings. Not only to reduce square meters, but to reallocate spaces according to new usages. Less individual work, more collaborative work, more meetings, creativity sessions, moments of sharing and conviviality. ”

However, for the CEO of Actineo, a glimmer of hope exists with a mid-2021 crisis exit, thanks to vaccines. “It is reasonable to assume that companies will launch redevelopment and relocation projects this year.” Not to mention the support of employees with the provision of furniture in their homes, a new market for office furniture manufacturers and distributors .

The support of Ameublement Français …

To lead this recovery, Ameublement Français relies on its campaign #Meublez-vous français.
But also, by getting messages across to the government “about the importance of ergonomics and comfort at work, no matter where the employee works.” The business owner is legally responsible for the health and safety of employees. “Including when they work from home,” reminds Ms. Duchenne.

According to the French Institute for Research and Safety (INRS), more than 2 out of 3 employees have suffered, are suffering or will one day suffer from low back pain. And according to Health / Occupational Risks Insurance more than 4 in 5 active people say they have had back pain before or after work. MSDs are a cost to the community and businesses.

“That’s why we met with Ministry of Labor to emphasize the importance of employee well-being, and the importance of comfort and the furniture that contributes to it. We would like companies to have a tax incentive to cover the cost of furniture equipment for their remote workers. ”

… and the European Federation of Office Furniture

A work also carried out at European level, since the FEMB will launch a campaign to prevent Musculoskeletal Disorders, with a Think-Tank from the European Commission.

Finally, the publication of the latest Actineo Barometer survey on employee satisfaction. This survey “as our previous ones have always done for the pat 16 years” will feed the thinking of market players. An ambitious international survey under the scientific responsibility of Alain d’Iribarne, a researcher at the CNRS.

Conducted in January and February 2021 with 3,000 active people working in the office. From 5 metropolises: Paris, Amsterdam, London, Singapore and San Francisco / Seattle. It is piloted by the firm Sociovision (IFOP group). In partnership with the Colliers development council and the Maison & Objet trade show. It reviews employees ’relationships at work, places and working conditions, their visions for the future …

Read the full interview in our latest issue of Ergonoma Journal