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What is the demand for home decoration and home textiles in the European market?

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The European market for home decoration and home textile (HDHT) products was growing steadily, until the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted trade in 2020. A considerable share of the imports comes directly from developing countries. Because European importers generally distribute your products across the continent, you should focus on segments rather than on specific countries. The opportunities are particularly good in the mid- to high-end markets. If you can make your products stand out by adding unique value, there is potential across the sector.

1. What makes Europe an interesting market for home decoration and home textiles?

After years of steady growth, European HDHT imports declined in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The exact impact varies considerably across product groups and countries. At the same time, consumers’ increased focus on the home and garden is expected to drive demand for HDHT products in the coming years. Developing countries play a key role on the European HDHT import market. While mass-production from countries like China dominates the low-end market, the mid- to high-end markets offer you good opportunities.

European HDHT imports stalled in 2020

Branding and services for the European HDHT market are generally carried out in Europe. A lot of the production, however, has been permanently relocated to lower-cost countries outside of Europe.

Between 2016 and 2019, European HDHT imports increased from €133 billion to €149 billion. In 2020 however, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a 7.0% decrease. This resulted in a total average annual growth rate of 1.0% for the 2016-2020 period and reduced the market to a size comparable to that seen in 2017 and 2018. The same pattern could be observed in the worldwide HDHT import market . Europe consistently has a global market share of 38%, making it a key market for HDHT products.

Direct European HDHT imports from developing countries grew from €57 billion in 2016 to €63 billion in 2019, before falling back to €57 billion in 2020. This amounted to an average annual growth rate of 0.4%, and an import market share of 41%. Because much of the intra-European trade consists of re-exported products from developing countries, the actual market share is likely to be considerably higher. This makes Europe an interesting market for new entrants.

These data mainly reflect home decoration imports, as these products account for around 88% of total European HDHT imports. However, a closer look at home textile imports reveals a somewhat different pattern.

Most European home textile imports were directly sourced from developing countries. Of a total value of €17 billion in 2020, developing countries supplied €10 billion worth of home textiles. This amounts to an impressive European import market share of 60%.

COVID-19 and the European HDHT market

In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken to mitigate its spread worldwide continue to affect international trade. At the same time, lockdowns have resulted in an increased focus on the home and garden that may partially compensate for the negative effects on the market. For example, 65% of British homeowners invested in renovations during the first lockdown, spending around €4,500 each on average. The importance of the home and garden is generally expected to remain high and drive demand for HDHT in the coming years.

Several trends in the sector have been sustained or even bolstered by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the emphasis on wellness and sustainability and fair trade. Spending more time at home has led people to invest in HDHT products that help them make the most of the situation and of the space they have at their disposal.

While budgets for indulgent luxury purchases may be limited, product groups that could benefit include home office furniture (because of the increase in remote working), garden furniture, flexible/multifunctional items, storage products and dinnerware and cookware. In the longer term, European HDHT imports may return to a pattern of steady growth.

The exact effects of the pandemic on the HDHT market vary by country, as economic consequences and restrictions vary. Europe’s six main HDHT markets are discussed in more detail later in this study.

The varying impact of the pandemic is clearly illustrated in the Maison et Objet barometer published in June 2021. While 8% of interviewed brands, retailers and specifiers indicated their business was struggling, more than a third of respondents reported that the situation has allowed their company to grow.

Figure 3: Impact of the COVID-19 crisis on HDHT companies

Impact of the COVID-19 crisis on HDHT companies

Source: Maison et Objet barometer – Issue 1

Tips:

China continues to be Europe’s leading HDHT supplier

* Excluding China

China is Europe’s main HDHT supplier, accounting for 29% (€40 billion) of the total import value in 2020. This is more than that of the direct supplies from the other developing countries combined, which also account for a considerable market share (13% or €18 billion).

The other leading suppliers are all European countries which trade within Europe. Germany is the largest of these intra-European suppliers, accounting for 10% of the HDHT imports. Poland is the next largest with 7%, followed by France and Italy with 5% each, and the Netherlands with 4%.

However, you should keep in mind that European countries have different roles on the market. Countries can be divided into roughly two categories: those that are mainly importers and countries that are mainly manufacturers.

Western-European countries are mainly re-exporters. Most Western-European importers do not just sell their imported products in their own country, but they also distribute them across the continent. European production mainly takes place in Eastern-European countries, mostly because of their proximity and their relatively low labour costs. This can make them a good alternative for sourcing low- to mid-end products. Western and Southern European countries also produce some high-end products from well-known premium brands with a long history.

It is generally best to focus on the mid- to high-end market, which offers good opportunities in terms of value addition. In this way, you can avoid competition from mass-producing low-cost countries in the lower ends of the market, such as China.

Other developing countries are strengthening their position

China’s low-cost workforce, availability of (especially man-made) raw materials and efficient shipping to Europe compared to other Asian countries make it the most competitive supplier. In the coming years, however, Chinese manufacturers are expected to increasingly focus on their domestic market. Combined with disruptions following trade disputes and the COVID-19 pandemic, this may offer opportunities for competitors to gain ground on China. A shift already seems to be occurring: while from 2016 to 2020 the total European HDHT imports from other developing countries showed an average annual increase of 3.3%, those from China decreased at an average annual rate of 0.8%.

When it comes to total HDHT imports, Europe sourced €18 billion worth of products from developing countries (other than China) in 2020. Of these countries, the six leading suppliers are:

  1. India - €3.2 billion
  2. Vietnam - €3.2 billion
  3. Turkey - €3.1 billion
  4. Pakistan - €2.2 billion
  5. Indonesia - €1.1 billion
  6. Bangladesh - €0.9 billion

Categorising these imports reveals that, while China overwhelmingly focuses on home decoration (92%), the supply from other developing countries is more evenly distributed between home decoration products (61%) and home textiles (39%). Individual countries clearly differ from each other in terms of the category they focus on.

Home decoration imports from developing countries other than China

Vietnam is by far the largest of these suppliers, accounting for about a quarter of Europe’s direct home decoration imports from “other” developing countries in 2020. India and Turkey followed, accounting for 17% and 15%, respectively, while Indonesia supplied a further 9.4%. All four of these relatively large players have increased their supplies to Europe in recent years, particularly in 2019. Thailand and Malaysia accounted for about 5% and 4%, respectively, which figures remained fairly stable between 2016 and 2019. In 2020, all of these suppliers except for Turkey showed a decline.

Like China, Vietnam can produce high volumes at low costs. This puts it in a good position to potentially benefit from a decrease in European trade with China. Although there are of course exceptions, Vietnam mainly produces for the low-end segment with limited design value, which should not be your focus.

Manufacturers from India, Indonesia and Thailand are generally more likely to be your direct competitors. These producers often have access to a wide range of natural materials and skilled craftsmanship, allowing them to compete in the mid- to high-end segments of the European market. These countries each have their own ranges and established position in the market.

Turkish suppliers provide a mix of industrial and handmade production, at a relatively low cost. They benefit from their proximity to Europe, allowing them to offer short delivery times. This position may have shielded Turkish suppliers from some of the pandemic-induced trade disruptions in 2020.

While the home decoration category among developing countries is clearly dominated by South and Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe is also becoming a key player. Just beyond the borders of the “other” developing countries home to the top 6 suppliers,   Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Belarus are emerging strongly. Like Turkey, these countries benefit from their convenient location, while offering relatively affordable labour costs. If this trend continues, they could earn a place among the leading suppliers in the coming years.

Home textile imports from developing countries other than China

Pakistan, Turkey and India are key players on the home textiles market. Together, these countries directly accounted for about a third of Europe’s total home textile imports in 2020. Bangladesh supplied another 4.2%, while Egypt and Vietnam completed the top 6. Although the European home textile import market struggled in 2020, Bangladesh and Vietnam managed to keep up their performance from previous years.

Leading suppliers Pakistan and India are high-volume, low-pricing sourcing hubs for home textiles, with access to cheap and plentiful labour. Traditionally, Pakistan is one of the leading producers of cotton in the world and has significant spinning capacity for producing textile products from cotton. As in the home decoration category, Turkish manufacturers benefit from their proximity to Europe and relatively low-cost labour.

Vietnam’s high-volume, low-cost production makes the country an interesting alternative to China’s declining supplies. Again, rather than competing with these countries in terms of price, your focus should be on the mid- to high-end segments. With its reasonable prices, large skilled workforce and abundance of natural materials from renewable sources, Bangladesh constitutes more direct competition for you. Egypt is renowned for its high-quality Egyptian cotton, making it a particularly strong player in high-end cotton product categories.

South and Southeast Asia clearly dominate the supplies of home textiles to Europe, not just among developing countries, but also worldwide. Unlike in home decoration, Eastern Europe plays a relatively minor role in home textiles. Cambodia and Northern African countries Morocco and Tunisia are also fairly large home textile suppliers, but their exports to Europe declined sharply in 2020. If they manage to get back on track in the coming years, they may make their way (back) into the top 6 of leading suppliers from developing countries.

Tips:

2. Which European markets offer most opportunities for home decoration and home textiles?

The larger Western European economies are the main importers of HDHT products. 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.

Germany is the leading European importer of HDHT products with a market share of 18%  in 2020, followed by France and the United Kingdom with 13% each. Together, these 3 countries account for almost half of the total European HDHT imports. Smaller markets with a share of less than 10%, but still in the top six leading importing countries, are the Netherlands (8.1%), Italy (5.9%) and Spain (5.0%).

As discussed, most Western European importers re-export their imported products across Europe. This explains why, small countries like the Netherlands often import much larger quantities of HDHT products than needed to meet the demand in their own domestic market.

In terms of marketing, you should keep in mind that countries are not markets. In HDHT there are different market segments, ranging from low- to high-end. Every European country has these segments, although their size may vary by country. Therefore, it makes much more sense for you to identify a particular segment in your product group and connect with the importers and distributors in that segment, instead of focusing on a specific country. These distributors will then sell your products in that segment across Europe.

Tip:

Germany is Europe’s largest importer

Between 2016 and 2019, German HDHT imports increased from €24 billion to €26 billion  amounting to an average annual rate of 2.7%. In 2020 they decreased by 2.4%, a considerably smaller decline than the European average. Together, this resulted in overall average growth of 1.4% per year between 2016 and 2020.

About 43% (€11 billion) of these imports came directly from developing countries, which is comparable to the European average. Germany’s main developing country suppliers are China, Turkey, Vietnam, India and Pakistan, followed by Indonesia and Bangladesh.

In 2020, Germany imported a total of €22 billion worth of home decoration products (87%) and €3.4 billion worth of home textiles (13%). While 40% of home decoration imports originated straight from developing countries, the share was much larger for home textiles (63%). This is in line with the European pattern.

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 that Germany would 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 recovery of which also benefits suppliers abroad. The European Commission indeed projects that German GDP will be back at pre-COVID-19 levels in 2021.

In addition to having a large domestic market, Germany is also a key trade hub within Europe. In 2020 the country (re-)exported around €19 billion worth of HDHT products, mainly to other European countries. Combined with the fact that it has a reasonably-sized market for developing countries and that the economy is expected to undergo rapid recovery, Germany is an interesting market for new entrants.

France offers relatively good opportunities for French-speaking suppliers

French HDHT imports increased from €18 billion in 2016 to €20 billion in 2019. In 2020, however, they fell by 8.2%, to €18 billion. This amounts to an average annual growth rate of 0.5% between 2016 and 2020. It makes France the second largest HDHT importer in Europe, with a direct market share for developing countries of 41% (€7.4 billion).

France’s leading developing country suppliers are China, Vietnam, India, Turkey and Pakistan, followed by Tunisia and Indonesia. French-speaking countries like Tunisia and Morocco are relatively well-placed to do business in this market, as the shared language gives them an advantage over non-French-speaking countries.

French imports generally consist of around 90% home decoration products and 10% home textiles. This is fairly consistent with the European average. Again, the market share of direct developing country imports was much higher for home textiles (69%) than for home decoration (38%).

Economic growth in France had already slowed down before plummeting to -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. This indicates France could offer business opportunities.

The United Kingdom mainly imports directly from developing countries

British total HDHT imports fluctuated between 2016 and 2019, before falling by 13% in 2020 from €20 billion to €18 million. This resulted in an average decrease of -2.6% per year, which is a considerably weaker performance than the European average of 1% annual growth.

The United Kingdom was Europe’s leading HDHT importer from developing countries, until the country was overtaken by Germany in 2018. Nevertheless, the United Kingdom is the only leading importer to source most of its HDHT imports straight from developing countries. With an import market share of 57% in 2020, developing countries directly supplied the United Kingdom with €10 billion worth of HDHT products.

British imports consisted of 85% home decoration products (€15 billion) and 15% home textiles (€3 billion). While developing countries were the main source for both categories, at 69% their market share for home textile imports was particularly large. The United Kingdom’s main developing country suppliers China, India, Vietnam, Pakistan and Turkey, followed by Malaysia, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Consumer in the UK have been relatively low since 2016 when the United Kingdom voted to withdraw from the European Union. At the same time, Brexit may result in British buyers importing more goods 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 lower 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, which explains the decrease in imports. At the start of 2021, a Financial Times survey among leading economists projected that the British economy would be one of the last 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 sourcing directly from developing countries, the United Kingdom could well offer opportunities.

The Netherlands is an important European trade hub

Although the Netherlands is a relatively small country, it is Europe’s fourth largest importer of HDHT products. This is because the country is a key trade hub, which re-exports goods across Europe. Between 2016 and 2019, Dutch HDHT imports surged. They increased from €9 billion to €12 billion, at an impressive average rate of 8.6% per year. In 2020 they returned to €11 billion, resulting in an overall average annual growth of 5.4% between 2016 and 2020. This is by far the highest rate of all the leading importers. As much as 43% (€4.9 billion) of these imports came straight from developing countries.

In 2020, Dutch HDHT imports consisted of €10 billion worth of home decoration products and €1.2 billion worth of home textiles. The direct developing country share was 42% for home decoration products, and 54% for home textiles. This is in line with the overall pattern in Europe. The Netherlands’ main developing country suppliers are China, Vietnam and India, followed by Pakistan, Indonesia and Turkey.

As in Germany, Dutch GDP is projected to return to 2019 levels in 2021. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit and international trade disputes between the United States and China (and Europe) may have a big impact on the Netherlands. Because the country relies heavily on international trade, negative developments in that area significantly affect its economic performance.

Because developments in other European countries will also play a role, total Dutch imports are difficult to predict. However, the Netherlands’ strong performance as a European trade hub with a considerable share of imports originating from developing countries continues to make the Netherlands an interesting market for new entrants.

Italy’s economy is expected to recover particularly slowly

Italian HDHT imports increased from €8.8 billion in 2016 to €9.7 billion in 2019, before falling to €8.1 billion in 2020. This drop of 16% resulted in an average annual decrease of 1.9% in the years 2016 to 2020. Of these imports, 40% (€3.2 billion) were sourced directly from developing countries. This is comparable to the European average.

In 2020, €7.2 billion worth of Italian HDHT imports consisted of home decoration products and €0.9 billion of home textiles. While the direct developing country import share for home decoration was fairly low at 36%,  the share for home textiles was rather high at 71%. Italy’s leading developing country suppliers are China, India and Turkey, followed by Pakistan and Vietnam.

Having been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, Italy experienced a GDP decline of 8.8% in 2020. As the Italian economy is still expected to experience the slowest recovery 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.

Spain is also faced with economic struggles

Between 2016 and 2019 Spanish HDHT imports increased from €7.5 billion to €8.3 billion, before dropping by a whopping 17% in 2020, to €6.9 billion. This resulted in an average annual decrease of 2.3% between 2016 and 2020, which is comparable to the declines in British and Italian imports. Around €3.3 billion of this €6.9 billion in imports came straight from developing countries, which translates into an above-average import market share (48%).

86% (€5.9 billion) of Spanish HDHT imports consisted of home decoration products  and 14% of home textiles 14% (€0.9 billion). The direct share of developing countries in home textiles was especially large. At 73%, this figure was the highest of all leading importing countries. Spain’s main developing country suppliers in China, India, Vietnam, Turkey and Pakistan, followed by Morocco and Bangladesh.

As predicted by The Economist, the Spanish economy has experienced the biggest contraction in Europe, with GDP declining by 11% in 2020. A return to pre-pandemic levels is expected by the end of 2022, which is considerably later than the European average. This, of course, could limit the opportunities in Spain for the coming years.

Tips:

  • Do not just focus on specific European countries. A particular market segment (high, middle or low) tends to behave similarly across countries, whether they are major importers or emerging markets. Your best approach is to identify the appropriate segment for your products and let your buyers distribute your products across Europe within this segment.
  • Use European HDHT trade associations to search for trading partners. Key associations include EURATEX (textiles) and EFIC (furniture). National associations such as HWB (Germany), the Giftware Association (United Kingdom) and VIIA (the Netherlands) can also be useful.
  • Visit (online) European trade fairs to find trading partners. The most important HDHT trade fairs in the European market are Ambiente and Heimtextil (home textiles) in Germany and Maison et Objet in France. Other interesting events in the key markets include the Autumn Fair and Spring Fair in the United Kingdom, showUP in the Netherlands, spoga+gafa (garden) in Germany,  Salone del Mobile in Italy and Intergift in Spain. Until restrictions on international travel have been lifted, many of these fairs will organise online/hybrid events.
  • See our studies per HDHT product group for more specific trade statistics relating to your products.

Consumer spending is slowly bouncing back

An important indicator for growth in demand for HDHT products is real private consumption expenditure. The HDHT sector is sensitive to economic cycles. When economic circumstances and prospects are dim, consumers postpone buying non-essential items. Conversely, when economic conditions are favourable, private consumption expenditure and purchases of (non-essential) HDHT products tend to increase.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the leading European markets showed an annual growth in real private consumption expenditure of around 1 to 3%. In emerging Eastern European markets, growth rates were even higher. For these emerging markets in particular, an increase in real private expenditure means consumers have more disposable income to spend on HDHT products.

Due to the pandemic, this trend of increasing consumption expenditure was disrupted in 2020. However, because lockdowns increased consumers’ focus on their home, the effect on the HDHT sector seems to have been limited. In the coming years, growth is expected to bounce back into positive figures.

3. Which products from developing countries have most potential on the European market?

Prospects are generally good on the European HDHT market. Particularly promising product groups include basketry, home furniture, wooden table- and kitchenware, soap, homewear, and carrying products. These groups show good potential based on both recent trade statistics and current sector trends.

The HDHT sector is large and extremely diverse, as are the individual home decoration and home textile sub-sectors. These sub-sectors are further divided into categories, consisting of various product groups. Analysing these product groups can give you a rough idea of the most promising products for the European market. However, you should keep in mind that the true potential of a particular product also depends on factors including its quality, price, style and design, and consequently, the segment you target with this product.

The European HDHT market generally offers good opportunities, especially in the mid- to high-end segments. To appeal to consumers in these segments, your product needs to stand out. You should pay attention to design, decoration, craftsmanship and the story behind your products to set them apart from those of your competition. Using special (sustainable) materials, techniques and patterns are good ways to add value. If this is accompanied by an active sales strategy, your chances of success should be favourable.

This chapter highlights 6 promising product groups from across the sector, to give you an idea of the prospects on the European market. Please note that we base our recommendations on high-potential product data from the developing countries where CBI is active. Of course, many more opportunities exist besides those mentioned in this chapter.

Basketry

A particularly well-performing product group is basketry. European basketry imports increased from €496 million in 2016 to €591 million in 2020, at an average annual rate of 4.5%. This includes an increase of 2.1% in 2020, despite the worldwide pandemic-related trade disruptions.

Although China is Europe’s leading supplier of basketry, its supplies decreased from €270 million in 2016 to €264 million in 2020, at an average annual rate of 0.5%. At the same time, European basketry imports from other developing countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh surged by a combined 10% per year on average. In 2020 they reached €211 million (including a 2.9% increase in 2020), which amounts to a direct import market share of 36%.

Besides having decorative value, baskets are functional storage items. This responds to the ongoing sector trends of shared living and wellness, as baskets allow consumers to create both physical and, consequently, mental space. The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised the relevance of these trends, as restrictions have forced people to spend more time together in relatively confined spaces. This suggests that the short- and long-term prospects for basketry are good.

Figure 9: European imports of basketry by plaiting material, in millions of euros

European imports of basketry

Source: Trade Map

Basketry also fits in well with the increased focus on sustainability, as about 80% of the basketry that Europe imports is made from natural materials. 12% of these products are made of bamboo, 17% of rattan and 71% of “other” natural materials such as sea grass, jute, water hyacinth or abaca. However, the use of natural materials does not automatically make a product sustainable. The raw materials should come from responsibly managed, renewable sources, and paints and dyes should preferably be natural.

Figure 10: IKEA BOTANISK – Handmade items of natural materials

Source: IKEA @ YouTube

Furniture

A much broader (and therefore larger) product group than basketry, is that of furniture. This group includes items such as various types of chairs, tables, beds, stools, poufs and sofas. European furniture imports grew from €31 billion in 2016 to €36 billion in 2020, after a decline of just 1.8% in 2020.

Although China supplied €10 billion of these imports, a further €4.2 billion were sourced directly from other developing countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia. The imports from these developing countries grew at an average annual rate of 6.9%, which is higher than the figure for China of 5.0%.

Figure 11: European imports of furniture by material

European imports


Source: Trade Map

Most of Europe’s furniture imports are made of wood (57%), including upholstered pieces with wooden frames. Other natural materials such as rattan and bamboo are also increasingly popular, although this  category is much smaller, accounting for only2% of furniture. Indonesia is a particularly strong player in rattan.

Based on the trends of shared living and smaller urban living spaces, flexible furniture has particularly good potential. Pieces that are easy to move and/or modular (with individual components) allow consumers to rearrange their furniture according to their current needs. Items that are collapsible and/or can easily be stored offer  flexibility and take up less space. These properties have become even more important due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Spending more time at home during a stressful period also creates a need for comfortable furniture, and the increase in remote working drives the need for (flexible) home office furniture.

Figure 12: Fritz Hansen – Pouf and folding tray table

Source: Fritz Hansen @ YouTube

Wooden tableware and kitchenware

A relatively small but booming product group is that of wooden tableware and kitchenware. Between 2016 and 2020, European imports of wooden tableware and kitchenware grew from €423 million to €575 million, amounting to an average annual rate of 8.0%, including a 5.1% increase in 2020.

China supplied €310 million of these products, making it Europe’s leading supplier of wooden tableware and kitchenware. Imports from other developing countries such as Vietnam and Thailand reached €72 million, which represents a direct market share of 13%.

Wooden tableware and kitchenware is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to products made from environmentally-unfriendly materials such as plastics. Bamboo is a particularly trendy material and is commonly used to replace disposable cutlery as single-use plastics are being banned from the European market. Because it grows rapidly and is a naturally renewable resource, bamboo is considered a very sustainable option. It is not truly sustainable, however, unless it is farmed and processed responsibly. This applies to any type of wood.

Figure 13: bambu - Bamboo spork

Source: bambu @YouTube

Tableware and kitchenware play an important role in the ‘home sweet home’ trend, where friends and family enjoy cooking and dining together. They invest in good quality cookware and dinnerware to create the perfect ‘slow-dining’ experience. During COVID-19 lockdowns, many European consumers have gained a (renewed) interest in cooking. This could further stimulate the demand for wooden table- and kitchenware, particularly in combination with the increasing focus on sustainability driving long-term demand.

Soap

Benefiting from a pandemic-induced emphasis on hygiene, European soap imports are soaring. They increased from €1.7 billion in 2016 to €2.4 billion in 2020, at an average annual rate of 9.1%. While this product group was performing well before the pandemic, in 2020 European imports surged by 24%.

China plays a relatively modest role in this market, with a share of 5.1% in 2020. Amidst relatively strong competition from European manufacturers, other developing countries had a combined direct market share of 12%, amounting to €286 million. Of these countries, Turkey is a particularly strong player on the European soap market.

The greater focus on hygiene is the main factor driving the demand for soap dispensers. The need for the more luxurious ‘raw’ and chunky bars of soap prominent in HDHT is linked to longer-term, deep-seated consumer needs. These soaps play an important role in the trend of wellness, where consumers create a spa atmosphere at home, with longer and more intensive bathing. Natural and ‘exotic’ ingredients, decorative properties and sustainable packaging are common. They make soap an ideal gift, to pamper yourself or promote the mental and physical health of friends and family.

Figure 14: LUSH – Palm free argan soap

Source: LUSH @ YouTube

Homewear

Homewear (sleepwear and bathrobes) occupies a special place in the home textiles market, as these are products you wear rather than use (decoratively) around the house. Between 2016 and 2019, European imports of homewear increased from €2.8 billion to €3.1 billion, before returning to €2.8 billion in 2020.

Although China supplied 24% of these products, developing countries that specialise in textiles, such as Bangladesh (14%), play a much larger role in this product group. Together they directly supplied €1.3 billion worth of products, or 48% of the import market. This resulted from an average annual growth of 1.4% between 2016 and 2020, while the quantity supplied by China declined. Some countries, such as Bangladesh and Indonesia, actually managed to increase the amount they supplied in 2020 despite the pandemic.

While there is a lot of mass production in the home textiles sector in countries such as India, there are also opportunities for smaller-scale producers with more attention to detail. Cotton is the most commonly used material (60%), in various styles such as terry or flannel, but synthetic fibres are also used. More luxurious fabrics such as silk, satin and cashmere are also popular. In addition, there is an increasing interest in more sustainable options such as organic cotton and bamboo fibres. Blends of different (natural) fibres also exist.

Besides having purely functional properties, homewear also plays a role in the wellness trend. Because a good night’s sleep is essential to a person’s sense of wellbeing, comfortable sleepwear is a must. And a luxurious, soft bathrobe adds to the relaxing spa experience that many consumers are recreating in their own home. As the COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on people’s mental health, simple and affordable products that help consumers unwind and improve their wellbeing at home can make a big difference. As it is an ongoing consumer trend, wellness is expected to keep driving demand in the long term.

Figure 15: Care By Me – GOTS-certified bathrobe

Source: Care By Me Youtube

Bags

Another product group with considerable potential is bags. These products range from travel bags, to shoppers, to office or school bags. Within the HDHT market, bags are mostly functional items. The more fashion-oriented personal accessories are not considered HDHT products but form their own category within the Personal Accessories or Fashion market.

Between 2016 and 2019, European imports of bags grew from €19 billion to €23 billion at an average annual rate of 6.5%. In 2020 these imports dropped to €18 billion, as the COVID-19 pandemic restricted travel and forced people to stay home, where they did not need bags to carry items around. When restrictions are lifted and travel resumes, so may the demand for bags.

Europe’s leading supplier – China – accounts for about a third of imports. However, while the value of products supplied by China decreased from €8.0 billion in 2016 to €6.3 billion in 2020, the combined value of products supplied by other developing countries increased from €1.8 billion to €1.9 billion. This resulted in a direct import market share of 11%. Countries such as Indonesia, Cambodia and Myanmar performed particularly well.

The largest category in this product group includes textile travel bags, rucksacks and shopping bags. Textile items offer a good alternative for disposable plastic bags, which are used less and less in Europe due to restrictions resulting from the Plastic Bags Directive. These are also projected to boost the long-term interest in bags from sustainable materials such as jute, sea grass, mela leaf, catkin, or recycled materials. This offers opportunities for countries such as Bangladesh, which are rich in these types of resources.

Figure 16: THAIHOME – Handmade bag from water hyacinth

Source: THAIHOME @ YouTube

Tips:

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

Please review our market information disclaimer.

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Countries are not markets. Exporters from developing countries need to learn that there are low, middle and high-end segments in the market, and that consumer needs in each segment are quite similar across the various countries.
Kees Bronk, GO! GoodOpportunity