The ‘furnishings’ sector includes, in part, the manufacture of wood, steel, glass and upholstered furniture primarily for home and office use.
Total furniture purchasing has increased within Australia in recent years, however, most of this increase reflects purchase of imports, which are now approximately two-thirds of all furniture sales. Imports are primarily from China with some high end, low volume products from Europe and USA.
Profit margins are being squeezed by this competition. Australian businesses increasingly use imported components to reduce costs and this puts further pressure on businesses in the supply chain. The export market is extremely small, with New Zealand the only off-shore market of significance.
There are significant sustainability issues throughout the supply chain, for example, the risk of worker exploitation, use of sustainable vs old growth timbers, use of chemicals as treatments and ‘end of product life’ issues such as disposal of recyclable waste to landfill and rapid turnover of still serviceable products by consumers.
The mix of sustainability issues will vary between sectors and enterprises. The mix might even vary between work processes in a business. It really depends on the context of market pressures, regulations and the steps that make up the daily routine. And how they all interact with the range of social, economic and environmental sustainability issues.
There are many different ways to approach understanding the sustainability issues within a sector. Areas of research might include barriers to entry and expansion into markets, drivers of demand for services and products, geographic location, major markets and suppliers, technology and workforce demographics and skills profile.
Sources of information in the sector
Employment and occupations
IBIS World Industry Research Reports
IBIS World Industry Research Reports can be purchased individually or as a subscription. For this sector they include:
- C2921 – Wooden Furniture and Upholstered Seat Manufacturing in Australia
- C2923 – Mattress Manufacturing In Australia
- C2929 – Household and Commercial Furniture Manufacturing in Australia
- C2922 – Sheet Metal Furniture Manufacturing in Australia
- C2323 – Wooden Structural Component Manufacturing in Australia (Kitchens and Other Built In Furniture).
Australian Financial Review industry snapshots
Sustainability issues in the furnishing sector
IFC Industry Environmental Health and Safety Guidelines for Sawmilling and wood-based products and Board and particle-based products
Australian Forest Certification Scheme for sustainable timbers