Design, here are the companies looking for investors to grow

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Dynamic and competitive from an industrial point of view – at the forefront of the circular economy and product innovation – Italian furniture and lighting companies, however, still seem largely reluctant to undertake another type of evolution, that of governance and the use of financial instruments, which other Made in Italy sectors have faced with greater conviction in the last 10-15 years. There is no shortage of progress and 2023 has seen a fair number of operations, including the acquisition of Zanotta by Cassina; that of Reggiani Illuminazione by Nemo Lighting; that of Turri by Italian Design Brands, a group which also entered the Italian Stock Exchange last May (a real white fly in the Italian design panorama); the corporate reorganization of Unopiù, with the entry of new partners such as Claudio Costamagna and the MSC group.

Growth paths

«There is some movement, but the sector is still a bit stagnant from this point of view – observes Anna Roscio, head of the Corporate Sales & Marketing Department of Intesa Sanpaolo -. The reason is probably to be found in the intrinsic characteristics of this sector which still maintains a strong local and artisanal tradition and this slows down the opening of corporate capital. As a Bank we are committed to accompanying SMEs on growth paths that leverage innovation and sustainability.” It is a fundamental sector for the Italian GDP, which according to Intesa Sanpaolo estimates has reached a turnover of 32 billion euros in 2022 (furniture and lighting together), confirming itself as the first production hub in the sector within the EU. But in the coming years it will have to face important challenges, starting with those related to sustainability and digitalisation, which require huge financial resources to support the necessary investments.

The best prospects for the two-year period 2024 and 2025

2023, again according to the credit institute’s estimates, saw a first slowdown in the market after two years of strong expansion, with an expected drop of 2.4% at current prices. The prospects for 2024-2025 are better, thanks to the recovery in international demand, in particular for high-end goods. But to seize opportunities on the export front, respond to consumers’ needs for innovation and sustainability and face increasingly fierce competition, adequate investments are necessary. «This sector has very strong district characteristics – adds Anna Roscio –. There are 13 districts, concentrated in a few geographical areas, especially Lombardy, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and even access to foreign markets has so far been addressed in this supply chain logic, for which some large brands have consolidated their presence all over the world. abroad, with positive repercussions for the entire supplier chain.”

The aggregations

To keep this strong propensity to export high, a change of pace is necessary, which the use of finance can accelerate. «It is not an obligatory choice, but a useful alternative to be able to think bigger», explains Marta Testi, CEO of Elite, the Euronext group company that helps small and medium-sized businesses grow and access public capital markets and private. «From our observatory we are witnessing a progressive increase in aggregations also in the furniture and lighting sector and a growing interest in financial instruments – says Testi -. We currently have 26 companies in this sector in the Elite network, which represent almost 3 billion euros in aggregate turnover and 6,300 employees, and have good margins, with 300 million Ebitda together. All of them have already taken some action both in the equity area, for example by acquiring other brands supported by private equity, and in debt: a couple issued mini-bonds and together they raised 7 million to finance innovation operations”. For comparison, there are 48 fashion companies in Elite, of which 47 are Italian, while there are 177 food companies, of which 144 are Italian.

The fundamental theme is to increase the information and training of these companies regarding the various financial instruments: from debt to equity, from private markets to the public market. «A little at a time I am sure that this sector will increasingly appear in the world of capital – says Testi – also as a possible solution to the current fragmentation». A necessary change to seize the opportunities that the markets offer: a recent study presented by Equita estimates that the global furniture design market will grow by 6% (cagr) between 2022 and 2027, reaching 914 billion dollars, driven by particularly from sales via online platforms and from the Nordic countries where per capita spending on design is above average.

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