Special Report

The Salone del Mobile.Milano and the furniture industry in Italy

The Salone del Mobile.Milano 2019, the 58th edition, closed with a highly positive result, attracting 386,236 visitors, up 12% on the 2017 edition, the previous edition with the Biennial Euroluce and Workplace 3.0. The visitors coming from 181 different countries, confirm that Milan Salone del Mobile is now a lifestyle event of global importance, every year bigger and bigger. The Salone 2019 counted 2,418 exhibitors, of which 34% from abroad, from 43 countries, split between Salone, Euroluce, and SaloneSatellite.

Of course, the Salone also includes the Fuorisalone, the set of about 1,000 events which take place in town, hosted by designers, furniture brands, major world brands of consumer electronics and fashion brands. Overall, design brings 350 million euros in sales to the city of Milan in Milan Design Week alone, including Salone del Mobile, Fuorisalone and related events (bars, restaurants, hotels and other accommodations or supply of basic goods), and other cultural activities.

Mauro Mamoli, President at Federmobili, the Federation of Italian Furniture Retailers, commented: “As always, the Salone 2019 Show proved to be a success. It was a success for the number of visitors, for the number of foreign attendees, and as a showcase for the Italy we like the most: the Italy of design, furniture and know-how. The question arises as to how we all stand, in the same spaces, next year with the biennial of Eurocucina. A topic which could also be extended to the Fuori Salone events: countless, extremely numerous…perhaps too many.

Binario sofa by Flou, design by Pinuccio Borgonovo

The Salone is certainly the most lively and vibrant week of the year, involving the whole city of Milan: you can breathe an atmosphere of optimism and positivity giving a boost of enthusiasm which lasts in time to follow. “Again, this year the Federation arranged the usual Convention during the Show, where it unveiled the results of its annual research, carried out with a survey of retailers associated with Federmobili.”

The Salone del Mobile.Milano and the furniture industry in Italy

The Federmobili’s survey confirms that the network of independent furniture retailers reported an increase in sales on the domestic market of +4.4%, in 2018. An excellent result, which supports the data from FederlegnoArredo; despite the long recession which hit Italy in the past 10 years, the Italian furniture industry is in good health.

In 2018, the total turnover of the furniture macro-system, which includes bathroom, office and lighting, grew by 1.9%, generating a total volume of about 27.4 billion euros. 51% of production is destined for foreign countries, with France, Germany and the USA as the main destinations. Imports increased by 5%, of which a significant share goes to the GDO retail stores.

In 2018, the European Union signed important trade agreements with Canada, Mexico, Mercosur, Japan, ASEAN and India, countries and areas where Made in Italy is the high added value share of European exports. In March 2019, among other things, Italy signed a MOU and some trade agreements with China, which is the seventh market for exports of furniture and the second destination outside the EU, after the U.S., which are in third place with an increase of 6.2%, or 1.5 billion euros.

Sofa Komodo by Nardi Outdoor, design by Raffaello Galiotto

Finally, the mature markets absorb the largest share of exports of Italian furniture. France is the first market, accounting for about 2.5 billion euros, Germany is the second, with 1.8 billion euros, followed by the United States, as mentioned, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Spain, and China. Russia is still affected by the imposition of sanctions, and closed 2018 with a drop of 3.1%, but other branches of Italian exports recorded an increase, which bodes well for the furniture industry as well.

An emerging trend among Italian businesses is that of groups with several brands under common management, sharing strategies and development. Usually, the brands belonging to Groups deal with different product categories, thus providing a comprehensive offer, which is particularly effective for the contract market. The Salone del Mobile.Milano saw this evolution, and set up a new exhibition area, S. Project, where, among others, Boffi-De Padova-MA/U Studio and ADL, Design Holding, the holding company founded in 2018 that includes B&B Italia, Flos, Louis Poulsen and Arc Linea, and many more, were located.

The furniture Made in Italy: styles and trends

So let’s come to the trends seen at the Salone del Mobile 2019. 2019 is the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Bauhaus, and a number of manufacturers created special versions of pieces by designers from the famous school. The American company Knoll, which has always been the only manufacturer of the legendary Barcelona armchair, designed by Mies Van Der Rohe for the German pavilion at the 1929 Universal Exhibition in Barcelona, is offering a limited and numbered version, in 365 pieces, one per day, for the whole of 2019.

Maybe for the Bauhaus centenary, maybe because Masterpieces of design furniture were designed in mid-20th century, vintage is a trend of great popularity. De Padova re-edited a wingchair from 1956, designed by Paul McCobb, while Thonet, for its 200th anniversary, presented a special version of the 214 chair, with a two-tone structure, a trend recurring in other products, including those of contemporary design; Flos edited for the first time a project by Achille and Piergiacomo Castiglioni from 1957, the Bulbo lamp. And the series may go on.

Design Holding booth at Salone del Mobile 2019, the interactive wall at the entrance

Green: the color of the year

Un colore molto presente, al Salone 2019, è il colore verde. Molte aziende hanno proposto prodotti di colore verde, per le loro collezioni. Flou, per esempio, aveva un’intera collezione di imbottiti in verde, Arflex poltrone e divani in velluto e verde o tessuto stampato a fiori. Nardi Outdoor condensa resina riciclabile e verde nel divano per esterni Komodo, configurabile in mille diversi modi, grazie a un semplice sistema a incastro, senza viti e senza colle.

La sostenibilità

The central theme of the 2019 Salone and Fuorisalone events was sustainability. Businesses start to face the challenge of sustainable materials, and in the meantime there is an evolution of research. Kartell, to give an example, introduced the Componibili, a 1967 product, in a new version made of bio plastic, the first mass-produced product made of bio plastic; the American Emeco launched On & On, a chair designed by Barber & Osgerby, in rPet, which is virtually recyclable to infinity.

Many brands also explore alternatives in metals, such as Magis, which has found a source of inspiration in magnesium, a metal widely used in the automotive industry, but little used in furniture, much lighter than steel and aluminum, widely abundant on the Earth’s surface, and easily extractable. So Magis had the idea of making a chair, Vela, designed by the Israelis Gilli Kuchik & Ran Amitai, very light and stackable indefinitely.

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