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The European market potential for vases

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Despite the pandemic, Europe is an interesting market for your vases. More than half the imports of the product groups that include vases are directly sourced from developing countries. Demand is driven by consumers’ need to bring nature into their home, and by the continued popularity of flowers as a gift. Being at home more has also led consumers to buy flowers more often. Sustainability is another key trend, which you can tap into by using (renewable) natural or recycled materials for your vases.

1. Product description

A vase is an open container, generally used to hold cut flowers. In Home Decoration and Home Textiles (HDHT), vases are usually categorised as home accessories. As such, they are grouped with items such as statuettes and figurines, wall decoration, candles and candle holders.

This study uses the following codes to indicate trade in vases:

Table 1: Product codes for vases

Harmonised System (HS)



3926 40

22 29 26 20

Statuettes and other ornaments, of plastics

4420 10

16 29 13 00

Statuettes and other ornaments, of wood (excluding wood marquetry and inlaid wood)

6913 10

23 41 13 30

Statuettes and other ornamental ceramic articles of porcelain or china, not elsewhere specified

6913 90

23 41 13 50

Statuettes and other ornamental ceramic articles, not elsewhere specified (excluding of porcelain or china)

6914 10

23 49 12 30

Ceramic articles of porcelain or china, not elsewhere specified

6914 90

23 49 12 50

Ceramic articles not elsewhere specified (excluding of porcelain or china)

7013 41

23 13 13 10


23 13 13 30


23 13 13 50

Glassware of lead crystal, of a kind used for table or kitchen purposes, gathered by hand (excluding articles of heading 7018, drinking glasses, glass preserving jars "sterilising jars", vacuum flasks and other vacuum vessels)

7013 42

Glassware for table or kitchen purposes of glass having a linear coefficient of expansion <= 5 x 10 -6 per kelvin within a temperature range of 0°C to 300°C (excluding glassware of glass ceramics or lead crystal, articles of heading 7018, drinking glasses, glass preserving jars "sterilising jars", vacuum flasks and other vacuum vessels)

7013 49

Glassware of a kind used for table or kitchen purposes, gathered by hand (excluding toughened glass and glass having a linear coefficient of expansion <= 5 x 10 -6 per kelvin within a temperature range of 0 to 300°c, glassware of glass ceramics or lead crystal, articles of heading 7018, drinking glasses, glass preserving jars "sterilising jars", vacuum flasks and other vacuum vessels)

7013 91

Glassware of lead crystal, of a kind used for toilet, office, indoor decoration or similar purposes, gathered by hand (excluding glassware of a kind used for table or kitchen purposes, drinking glasses, articles of heading 7018, mirrors, leaded lights and the like, lighting fittings and parts thereof, atomisers for perfume and the like)

8306 21

25 99 24 00

Statuettes and other ornaments, of base metal, plated with precious metal (excluding works of art, collectors’ pieces and antiques)

8306 29

Statuettes and other ornaments, of base metal, not plated with precious metal (excluding works of art, collectors’ pieces and antiques)


Vases that display cut flowers need to be able to hold water. For glazed ceramics and glass, this water-resistance is a given. Other materials like wood or paper may need an inner coating or glass container. Vases used for artificial flowers or purely decorative purposes do not have to be water resistant. In general, outdoor vases need to be light and durable.


The vase has become a valued home accessory, rather than a purely functional item that holds the water for flowers. It also has added emotional value; vases are now seen as an accessory that adds to the style of the consumer’s interior. They need to appeal to different market segments, with different requirements in terms of shape and decoration, and can range from everyday basics to status symbols. Generally, levels of innovation rise as the segments move up.

Shapes can vary according to consumer taste. They also depend on whether vases are designed to hold bunches or single flowers. Over the years, vases have evolved from conventional cylinder or belly shapes to more expressive and innovative designs.


Vases come in a wide variety of materials, from natural materials such as ceramics, glass, metal, wood and paper, to recycled materials, to synthetic materials such as plastics, rubber, resins and composite materials. They can be produced industrially, by hand, or with the help of simple power tools.

Glass and ceramic vases are the most common. However, varying consumer preferences and the need for design flexibility stimulate the use of different materials. Each material creates a different look, feel and customer appeal.

2. What makes Europe an interesting market for vases?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the European market for the product groups that include vases was growing steadily. More than half of the import value is sourced directly from developing countries, making Europe an interesting market for you.

(!) Because no specific trade data are available for vases, these statistics cover various related HS-codes for decorative objects and glassware.

Between 2016 and 2019, European imports of the product groups that include vases increased from €3.2 billion to €3.7 billion. In 2020 however, the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) led to a -6.9% decrease. This resulted in a total average annual growth rate of 1.5% for 2016-2020 and pushed the market back to a size comparable to 2017/2018. More than half of the import value was sourced directly from developing countries, making Europe an interesting market for you as an exporter from a developing country.

In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken against it worldwide continued to affect international trade, and this is expected to carry on into 2022. At the same time, lockdowns have resulted in an increased focus on the home and garden. This may (partially) compensate for the negative effects on the market. Demand is driven by consumers’ need to bring nature into their home and the continued popularity of flowers as a gift in European cultures. For more drivers of demand, see ‘which trends offer opportunities?’ below.


  • Keep track of European trends in both vases and interior design, to anticipate future changes in the sector by visiting European trade fairs such as Ambiente, Frankfurt, Germany (February), Maison et Objet, Paris, (January and September), Tendence, Frankfurt, August.

3. Which European countries offer most opportunities for vases?

The larger Western European economies are the main importers of vases. However, importers in these countries generally sell their products across Europe. Your best strategy therefore is to focus on a particular segment, rather than a specific country.

In 2020, Germany remained Europe’s leading importer of the product groups that include vases with 21% of imports, followed by the Netherlands with 12%, and France and the United Kingdom with 11% each. Together they accounted for more than half of the European total. Smaller markets with a share of less than 10%, but still in the top six leading importing countries, are Italy (5.2%) and Poland (4.6%).

Be aware that European countries have different roles on the market. You can make a rough distinction between countries that are mainly importers and countries that are mainly manufacturers. Western European countries are mainly importers and re-exporters. Most Western European importers do not just sell their imported products in their own country, but they distribute them across Europe. This explains why in HDHT, small countries like Denmark and the Netherlands often import much more than the demand in their own domestic market.

In terms of marketing, you need to know that countries are not markets. In HDHT there are different market segments, ranging from low to high (also see our study on market entry for vases). Every European country has these segments, although their size may vary per country. Therefore, it makes much more sense for you to identify a particular segment in your product group and connect to the importers and distributors in that segment, instead of a specific country. These distributors will then sell in that segment across Europe.

Real private consumption expenditure

An important indicator for growth in demand is real private consumption expenditure. The HDHT sector, which includes the market for decorative objects, is sensitive to economic cycles. When economic circumstances and prospects are dim, consumers postpone buying non-essential items. The other way around, when economic conditions are favourable, private consumption expenditure and purchases of non-essential HDHT products tend to increase.

Until the COVID-19 outbreak, the leading European markets showed an annual growth in real private consumption expenditure of around 1-3%. Due to the pandemic, 2020 broke with this trend. However, because lockdowns increased consumers’ focus on their home, the effect on the HDHT sector may have been limited. For the coming years, growth is expected to bounce back to positive figures.

Germany continues to be the largest European importer

Germany is the largest economy in Europe, home to nearly a fifth of the European Union’s population. It is widely considered the stabilising force within the European Union. The Economist forecast Germany to be the first major European economy to recover from the current crisis. This was based on both the country’s healthy finances before the crisis and its large industrial sector, the reboot of which also benefits suppliers abroad. The European Commission indeed projects German GDP to be back at pre-COVID-19 levels in 2021.

Between 2016 and 2019, German imports of the product groups that include vases increased from €669 million to €740 million, at an average annual rate of 3.4%. In 2020 they decreased by -3.1%, a considerably smaller decrease than the European average. Together, this resulted in an overall average growth of 1.7% per year.

Germany sources about 59% of its import value directly from developing countries, which is above the European average. These imports decreased by a relatively high -8.5% (€29 million) in 2020, returning to their 2016/2017 levels. However, most of this decline comes from the dominant supplier, China. Other developing countries such as India and Indonesia managed to increase their supplies to Germany in 2020. This suggests there could be opportunities for you.

In addition to having a large domestic market, Germany is also a key trade hub within Europe. Combined with a relatively stable market for developing countries and the forecast economic recovery, this makes Germany an interesting market for you.

The Netherlands is an important European trade hub

Dutch imports of the product groups that include vases increased at an average annual rate of 4.9% between 2016 and 2019. In 2020 they decreased by -9.4%, to reach €398 million. This is comparable to their 2017/2018 levels, resulting in an overall average increase of 1.1% per year. Direct imports from developing countries increased by 3.4% between 2016 and 2020, despite a decline of -7.3% in 2020. This boosted the Dutch import market share for developing countries to 71%, the highest in Europe.

China is by far the leading supplier (57%), followed at a distance by Germany (10%) and India (4.7%). Supplier performances varied in 2020. For example, while the leading suppliers’ exports to the Netherlands decreased, Mexico and Thailand increased their supplies.

Like in Germany, Dutch GDP is projected to return to 2019 levels in 2021. As well as the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit (the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union) and international trade disputes between the United States and China (and Europe) may have a big impact on the Netherlands. Because the country heavily depends on international trade, negative developments in that area strongly affect its economic performance. This, in turn, affects consumption of vases.

Because developments in other European countries will also play a role, total Dutch imports are difficult to predict. However, its performance as a European trade hub with a considerable import share for developing countries continues to make the Netherlands an interesting market for you.

France increases its imports from developing countries

Between 2016 and 2019, French imports of the product groups that include vases increased at an average annual rate of 6.3%. In 2020 however, they fell by -4.1% to €393 million. This adds up to a relatively strong average annual growth rate of 3.6%.

Interestingly, French direct imports from developing countries increased by 2.3% in 2020, to €163 million. This adds up to a 41% market share, which is below the European average. However, an overall average annual import growth of 5.8% despite the pandemic is promising. China is France’s leading supplier of vases with 35%. The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium follow, suggesting these well-known trade hubs may be a good route to enter the French market.

Economic growth in France had already slowed down before plummeting by -8.3% in 2020 due to the pandemic. Global uncertainties and the effects of social unrest weighed on consumer confidence and the consumption of non-essential products. However, French GDP is expected return to its pre-pandemic level at the beginning of 2022. Combined with the country’s growing market for developing countries, this indicates France could offer you opportunities.

Brexit may stimulate direct trade with the United Kingdom

British imports of the product groups that include vases also decreased in 2020, by -11%, to €362 million. With this, they returned to their 2017/2018 levels.

The United Kingdom sourced about two thirds of its imports directly from developing countries, which is considerably more than the European average. China continues to be the country’s main supplier with 50% of imports in 2020. Germany and Vietnam follow at a distance, with 7.0% and 5.4% respectively.

Brexit has led to relatively low consumer confidence levels since 2016. At the same time, it may result in British buyers importing more directly from developing countries, rather than from European importers. This allows them to avoid additional fees now that they are no longer part of the European Union’s single market. The decreased value of the British pound since the Brexit referendum also makes direct trade more attractive.

British GDP decreased by -9.9% in 2020, a record decline. At the start of 2021, a Financial Times survey among leading economists projected the British economy to be one of the last high-income economies to recover. Since then, however, the Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey has indicated he expects the economy to be back to pre-COVID levels by the end of 2021. Considering this positive development and the potential increased interest in direct sourcing from developing countries, the United Kingdom could well offer you good opportunities.

Italy’s economy is expected to recover particularly slowly

Being particularly affected by the pandemic, Italy experienced a GDP decline of -8.8% in 2020. As the Italian economy continues to be forecast as the slowest to recover in Europe, Italian GDP is now projected to reach its 2019 level in 2022. This is expected to affect consumer confidence and the consumption of non-essential products in the coming years.

Italian imports of the product groups that include vases were already fluctuating before COVID-19 disrupted global trade. In 2020, they fell by an extraordinary -15%. The decrease from €207 million in 2016 to €179 million in 2020 resulted in an average annual decrease of -3.6%. Direct imports from developing countries made up for about half of the market, which is comparable to the European average.

China, Spain and France are Italy’s leading suppliers, with market shares of 37%, 13% and 11% respectively. While some developing countries managed to keep their supplies to Italy fairly stable, for the coming years prospects on this market are likely to be limited.

Poland keeps its market stable

With its fairly stable imports despite the pandemic, Poland has become a leading European importer of the product groups that include vases. Since 2018, Polish imports have hovered at about €160 million. About half of this comes directly from developing countries, which is comparable to the European average.

Poland’s leading suppliers are China with 41% of the imports and Germany with 20%. Developing countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia managed to increase their supplies to Poland in 2020.

After nearly three decades of continued economic growth, the Polish economy declined with a relatively modest -2.7% in 2020. Polish GDP is expected to return to its pre-pandemic level in the third quarter of 2021, placing it among the first European economies to recover. As the Polish market matures and its mid-high segments flourish, it may be an interesting market for you.


  • Do not just focus on specific European countries. Instead, identify the appropriate segment and let your buyers distribute your products across Europe within this segment.

The market for vases is shaped by various trends, often related to the trends for HDHT on a sector level. The main developments are outlined below, starting with the potential effects of the recent COVID-19 outbreak on the HDHT market.

COVID-19 and trends in HDHT and vases

An expected outcome after the COVID-19 crisis is that people will be more focused on the home, having been in lockdown. A major factor in consumer spending will be the disposable income consumers may or may not have after the pandemic. The worry about this is expressed by consumer confidence, which continues to be relatively low. This makes some consumer groups careful in spending beyond food, cleaning products, and other household essentials.

However, the interest in some areas of HDHT has been boosted, such as:

  • wellness / fitness at home
  • working from home
  • cooking

Spending a lot of time at home has also moved consumers towards:

  • re-appreciating their homes and gardens and wishing to make their home more pleasant, practical and comfortable overall
  • bringing the outdoors inside and vice versa
  • cleaning out clutter

These trends are partly a continuation of consumer trends that were already ongoing; some have been accelerated as a direct consequence of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns. In addition, the pandemic has demonstrated the fragile balance on this planet, highlighting the need to produce more sustainably, taking care of our resources, our people and the planet in general. These developments further emphasise the existing trends of both sustainability and wellness in the decorative objects market.

Home sweet home: vases make the home cosier

The “home sweet home” trend has two components. Firstly, it is about a (slightly older, baby boomer) consumer retreating into the safety and security of their own home, and making it into a perfect, luxurious oasis. It is also about the home being the place where genuine connection takes place with friends and family by eating, cooking and enjoying entertainment together. These two aspects have been strengthened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has increased consumers’ focus on their home. As an important home accessory, the vase plays a role in both.

Within this trend, the emphasis is on the decorative side of the vase: how it can contribute to a homey atmosphere. This can be done by displaying real or artificial flowers, but also by how the vase itself fits into the style of the consumer’s living room. Design elements such as shape, colour, texture and dimension can all support the need of this consumer to create the two different moods of this trend: nostalgic and luxurious, or cosy and comfy. The more flexible you are in your materials and techniques, the easier you can cater to this need.

Whether or not you can successfully position yourself in the European market for vases also depends on your ability to match your design capability to your production concept. Broadly speaking, if you are a manufacturer with fairly mechanised processes, for instance in ceramics or glass, this may well place you in the more “everyday basics” segment, catering to a lower- and lower-middle-end customer base. If your concept is based on handmade items and/or a mix of materials, this may place you in the mid-high segment of this product group. Then, it is essential to incorporate innovative design and high-level aesthetics into your products.

Figure 4: Fritz Hansen – glass and brass vases

Source: Fritz Hansen @ YouTube


  • Study the segmentation in the market to discover your niche, for example via (online) European trade fairs like Ambiente and Maison et Objet.
  • To reach the younger consumer groups, target importing wholesalers and retailers with a strong online presence.

Wellness: say it with flowers

Today’s consumers are actively in search of wellbeing, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic has made consumers more acutely aware of the importance of both their mental and physical wellness. Feeling close to nature helps them feel healthy and invigorated. They use flowers and plants to create a garden inside the home, increasing the importance of vases. According to a February 2021 survey, 28% of consumers in Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom buy flowers more often because they are at home more.

In European culture, flowers are a popular gift, helping people bond with each other. Through their colour and scent, flowers are also an important element in spiritual and physical wellness rituals of yoga and spas. This makes vases an ideal wellness item and gift in their primary function as a container for flowers. A wide variety of design elements are used, depending on the type of customer: bright or muted colours, bold or classic shapes, and different materials and sizes. In the yoga and spa setting, the vases usually have a sensitive, quiet style. 

The wellness trend is also extending into the office, where more attention is being paid to mental and physical wellbeing, too. Flowers and plants serve an important function in creating a happy workplace.

At the interface between the home sweet home and wellness trends, the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces are blurring, and the popularity of outdoor vases is increasing. Plant pots in any size could already be found in the garden and have been adapted to the indoor style. Now, the outdoor vase is also (re-)appearing, in materials that can withstand various weather conditions and in a style consistent with that of the living room.  


Sustainability: the people and planet-friendly vase

Both the HDHT industry and the consumer are becoming more concerned about the environmental and social effects of production and consumption. Sustainability is a priority for millennials and Gen Z. For them, sustainability is about their future wellbeing. They are much more likely than previous generations to ‘vote with their wallets’. This means they buy products that contribute to a better world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further emphasised the importance of sustainability. For most consumers (particularly the younger generations), the COVID-19 crisis has made it more important for both consumers and companies to improve their sustainability. In addition, most people want significant change to make the world fairer and more sustainable after COVID-19.

In vases, sustainability has many aspects. At the level of material use, there are lots of options based on recycling post-industrial or post-consumer waste. This can go from glass factories re-using their glass rejects, to vases made from recycled plastics. Potentially damaging materials such as plastic can also be a replaced by ‘new plastics’ made from eco-friendly materials. At production level, industries are trying to become carbon-free and reduce their use of energy.

When it comes to transport, product design increasingly takes into account the fact that the more items fit into a container, the lower the environmental ‘footprint’. At marketing level, brands in the upper half of the market discuss the environmental benefits of timeless design, against the throw-away society – to urge the consumer to select an item more carefully and enjoy it longer. If more items can be reconverted into new materials at the end of their lifecycle, the environment also benefits.

These approaches are often practised by big industry in the mass, mechanised segments. By producing more sustainably, they are also cutting costs and generally being more efficient. Thus, sustainability can also add to profitability.

Handmade is also increasingly seen as more sustainable because it often means small scale, meaning less energy and pollution. Vases that were made by hand, such as hand-thrown stoneware, also often preserve elements of traditional culture. This is seen as contributing to social sustainability and, by the consumer, as more honest and authentic. Social concepts based on women’s empowerment and diversity are popular, especially among younger consumers. As such, small-scale producers also have their role to play in the market for sustainable vases.         

Figure 5: West Elm – traditionally produced recycled glass vases

Source: West Elm @ YouTube


  • Use sustainable solutions for raw materials, production, transport and distribution, consumer use and waste disposal to make a positive impact or reduce your environmental impact.
  • Add a touch of your local context or culture to your decorative objects.
  • Clearly communicate your sustainable values through your marketing materials. If your products have a unique origin and/or story, communicate the details in terms of special techniques, materials, producers, processes or meanings. These maker and making stories will add value both to the importer and at retail level, as they will help your resellers in their storytelling. 
  • If your importer is interested, consider certification options such as fair trade. For more information, see our study about buyer requirements.
  • For more information, see our special study on sustainability.

Let’s Play: fun in vases

Playing is a deep human need. It helps us relax, connect with each other, compete, or learn. In times of uncertainty (as with today’s global political instability and environmental concerns) our need for optimism, escape and invention is also being realised through play. What is more, playfulness almost comes naturally to the new dominant millennial and Gen Z consumer groups.

As a direct opposite to the need for tidying up the house, there is a thriving need for decoration. Especially where it adds fun and playfulness to the interior. So, the same consumer might be decluttering and decorating their home at the same time. Playful vases often involve figuration (such as animal shapes), non-functional materials (such as paper vases), bold colours and dimensions, playful imitations of a cultural or design trend (such as 1980s ‘Memphis’ style) or funny uses of texture (such as fluffy vases). 

Figure 6: MOBJE – rearrangeable fabric vases made with traditional hat-making techniques

Source: MOBJE - YouTube


  • Be aware that humour and light-heartedness is not in everybody’s design DNA and can become forced or come across as unauthentic when the style is adopted just because it is a trend.  
  • Play with your own culture by selecting traditional patterns, stories and uses to make a light-hearted statement in vases, but be respectful when you do so. Sharing intercultural jokes can be fun, both to the maker and the consumer, but remind yourself that not everybody shares the same sense of humour.
  • Imagine you are a child when designing for this trend. Naïve designs, as a child would have created them, often make people smile.

Example company:

Peruvian family business Raymisa offers a wide range of handmade HDHT products, mixing traditional designs and craftsmanship with modern trends. Their decorative Chulucanas vases are made using a unique technique from the North of Peru with a long cultural tradition of making and using. Originally a social NGO, Raymisa is now a WFTO Fair Trade Guaranteed company working with a network of studios employing artisans from different regions. The company is included in Messe Frankfurt’s Ethical Style Guide, allowing buyers looking for sustainable values to source them easily.

Figure 7: Raymisa – Chulucanas pottery

Source: Raymisa @ YouTube

This study has been carried out on behalf of CBI by Globally Cool B.V. in collaboration with GO! GoodOpportunity.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

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By 2022, the world will be fundamentally changed, much the same, or somewhere in between. We think it will probably be much the same but, hopefully, with some significant changes. We will definitely care more about environmental policy and climate change; we will have to listen harder to the demands of the youth whose futures have been sacrificed to the pandemic; and we will all have to learn to make do with less.

David Shah, Publisher & Editor, View Publications