Why Poland

HIGH POINT–Mention Poland and images of Pope John Paul II, and palaces, as in the Palace of Culture and Science, immediately come to mind. But for a growing number of retailers, wholesalers and suppliers set to attend next month’s furniture market here, Poland has become a trusted source for stylish, competitively priced furniture that easily translates into sales and profitability.

Attendees at market wanting to see the latest furniture from six leading Polish factories: Black Red White, Homenestry, Intermeble, Meble Wojcik, Spin and Wajnert, and their respective CEO’s, will be at their 5th floor showing 5-I in the C&D building beginning on April 20-April 26th from 9am till 6 pm daily.

While Poland has enjoyed a long tradition for furniture manufacturing, the ongoing uncertainty regarding trade relations between the U.S. and China has renewed the spotlight on Poland and the furniture made there.

And, at a time when tariffs, uncertain trade relations and a pandemic have overturned everyone’s cart, the good news for U.S. retailers and wholesalers is that Poland is well-positioned as a credible and sustainable supplier of furniture to the U.S. market as well as to the rest of the world.

To its credit, this is certainly not the first-time furniture manufacturers in Poland have been called on to fill the pipeline. Back in the 1960’s, IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad moved his manufacturing base to Poland and today, the country has maintained its ranking as the largest producer of IKEA’s furniture.

While establishing itself as a favored source for flat-pack furniture, Poland has earned an equally positive reception as a producer of case goods, upholstery, decorative accessories and other popular home furnishings.

Companies here already sourcing from Poland say the country’s furniture offers them capacity, competitive pricing, Euro-designs and styles, multifunctional and small-space solutions and its long history making flat-pack furniture gives them easy entry to online sales.

According to market research firm Statista, Poland also is recognized as the second-largest global exporter of furniture, only behind China, but well ahead of Germany, Italy, Viet Nam and Mexico.

BLACK RED WHITE – “Modeo” Collection

Plenty of capacity

In 2021, China was the leading exporter of furniture to the rest of the world, with an export value of approximately 87 billion U.S. dollars. Poland, ranking second, exported about 15.75 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of furniture that year.

Additionally, a recent white paper from Tomasz Wiktorski of B+R Studio, determined that Poland held onto the top position in terms of the dollar value of furniture exported to Europe last year.

That report found Germany to be the largest importer of Polish furniture, followed by Great Britain, the Czech Republic, France and the Netherlands.

Wiktorski’s report concluded that the United States was the largest non-European customer for furniture made in Poland, adding, “With Poland being a country of 2,000 furniture companies and 30,000 cabinet-and-furniture craftsmen, manufacturing capacity is not an issue.”

In fact, according to one estimate, every second sofa in Europe is made in Poland.

Closer to home, many industry observers say that the majority of U.S. retailers source furniture from suppliers producing between $10 million to $600 million and annually.

With that in mind, Wiktorski said that Poland has some 200 furniture manufacturers in that range, making them excellent partners for American retailers, adding, “Poland also has manufacturers, including Black Red White, Meble Wojcik and Intermeble, easily capable of suppling big-box retailers.”

In addition to case goods and flat-pack production, the country also has an ample number of upholstery manufactures: Wajnert, a $50-million company, Spin, a $10-million producer, and Homenestry , an upholstery supplier of high-end furniture influenced by nature.

SPIN Furniture factory – “Cooper” Corner

Consumers hungry for new looks, new brands

A recent report from market research firm Valassis found that the pandemic has prompted a significant change in consumer shopping patterns.

Specifically, the report found that more than one-third (34%) of U.S. shoppers are adding new brands to their consideration set during the coronavirus pandemic, with 24% adding new brands to the usual mix on their shopping lists and 13% using the opportunity to discover new brands.

With those statistics in mind, furniture from Poland, which offers a blend of European design and quality construction, can more than satisfy American consumers on the hunt for new looks and new brands.

According to the 2016 American Community Survey, German Americans (13%), Irish Americans (12%), English Americans (9%), Italian Americans (6%), and Polish Americans (3%) were the five largest self-reported European ancestry groups in the United States, forming over a third of the total population.

Those groups comprise a significant portion of the U.S. population, and with many Americans having to choose between traditional, transitional or astronomically high-priced high-end furniture, Poland’s wide assortments of popularly priced Euro-centric case goods and upholstery are helping retailers here offer their customers styling and affordable alternatives.

Homenestry – “Bond” Collection

Small space solution – multifunctionality

While ‘Tiny Homes’ are the next-new-thing here, citizens of Poland have been living in smaller spaces than Americans for years. The average house in Poland is 1,500 square feet while the Average house in America is about 2,500 square feet.

Apartments in Poland are even smaller, averaging between 500 and 600 square feet. By comparison, the average American apartment is about 1,000 square feet.

As a result, Polish furniture makers have mastered the art of integrating storage into almost every piece of furniture made there. With living spaces in Poland at a premium, Polish manufacturers were also early to the game in terms of designing multifunctional furniture.

Sofas that transform into beds, tables that can extent or retract and home offices that ‘open’ during work hours and can be hidden or ‘closed’ after work are all second nature to furniture makers in Poland.

These smaller-scaled, multifunctional pieces of furniture became much sought after during the pandemic as people worldwide sheltered-in-place, worked from home and basically stayed home.

Wajnert – “MISTY” collection

E-com compatible

Poland’s long history as a primary supplier of flat-pack furniture, often also called ready-to-assemble (RTA) furniture, has made the country a sought-after source for furniture sold online.

The flat-pack furniture, which is a highly viable and less expensive alternative to traditional case goods, allows customers to load thousands of items on a 40-foot container, saves warehousing costs and is easier and lighter to deliver than traditional case goods.

Retailers selling RTA can also offer customers the instant gratification of taking the furniture home the same day they purchase it, and for an additional fee, assemble it for them.

Meble Wójcik – “Cortina” Collection

Diversity rules

If the pandemic has taught retailers one thing it is this: Every business needs a contingency plan. As the pandemic unhinged the supply chain between Asia and the U.S.. retailers scrambled to find inventory, and then, faced outrageous ocean freight costs.

Containers that had cost $2500 from China to a U.S. West Coast port, skyrocketed to upwards of $25,000. And while container costs have dropped considerably, no one can predict if and when they could spike again.

The solution is diversification. With its strong manufacturing base, observers agree that furniture from Poland can easily give American customers a double-digit replacement factor of Asian goods.

Just as critical, furniture made in Poland can provide American retailers with new looks and new options at completive prices for consumers hungry to change and upgrade their homes.

Lastly, furniture made in Poland can offer specific values to the customer in terms of design, multifunctionality, mobility and sustainability. And it all comes from a U.S. friendly country from Europe with great capacity of furniture manufacturing.

Furniture from Poland makes sense for American consumers and profit dollars for those selling it to them.