Industry report predicts boom for contract furnishers

School desk and hospital bed designers are poised to benefit from dramatic growth in public spending over the next decade, according to a new study by the British Contract Furnishing and Design Association.

School desk and hospital bed designers are poised to benefit from dramatic growth in public spending over the next decade, according to a new study by the British Contract Furnishing and Design Association.

The Contract Furnishing Market Report 2007 says healthcare, education and the Olympics – and to a lesser extent the Liverpool City of Culture event in 2008 – will yield rich rewards for contract furniture designers.

The study examines the state of all contract furniture sectors, namely offices, airports, ferries, hospitals, surgeries, schools and colleges. The industry is dominated by the hotel and leisure markets, which together make up half its £2.24bn annual value.

However, the study finds that as investment rises, the balance is shifting towards the public services sector.

‘Private Finance Initiatives are working well in health and education at the moment, and it is very heartening to see the breadth of business opportunities opening up within the contract furnishing sector,’ says BCFA managing director Colin Watson. ‘We are encouraging our members to take the initiative in these growing markets.’

The Building Schools for the Future initiative aims to refurbish or rebuild every secondary school in the country over the next ten to 15 years. Meanwhile, the controversial, but heavily backed academies programme continues, with a target of 400 new schools by 2010. Finally, a £10m initiative called Teaching Environments for the Future aims to improve class and staff rooms, with clear implications for school furniture designers.

‘There is a huge Government-driven refurbishment programme taking place, which is generating major demand for a range of products, from classroom and office furniture to accommodation for boarding schools and further education institutions,’ says Watson.

In healthcare, where the contract furniture market is predicted to rise by 5 per cent over the next two years, one of the most significant schemes is the £67m Dignity in Care, begun this year. This will fund the refurbishment of care homes across the country. In addition, £750m has been earmarked to develop community hospitals between 2007 and 2011.

‘The range of products that they are looking for in both education and health is extremely varied, from anti-MRSA fabrics to cupboards and desks to full interior fit-outs,’ says Watson. ‘However, in the public sector price is very important – the Government demands low price, high volume products.’

Some designers fear that quality may lose out in the battle to keep costs low. ‘One of the challenges is that in the public-private partnerships infrastructure a lot of product specifications are about performance, which could compromise the design ambitions of new schools,’ says Pearson Lloyd director Tom Lloyd. He adds, ‘If the tender comes through a studio it will be well-designed, but if it goes through a manufacturer, cost is likely to be the guiding principle.’

The study highlights the Olympics as the third big opportunity for contract furniture companies.

BCFA recently accepted an invitation from the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games to conduct briefing sessions for the Olympic purchasing committees.

‘The range and number of furniture contracts generated by the Olympics is considerable,’ says Watson. ‘It will be a massive opportunity for the design group that wins the contract to fit out the 17 000-bed Olympic Village. In addition, many hotels have refurbishment programmes as they prepare for the games, not to mention the building of new accommodation in the capital. It is as if London is preparing for its busiest ever tourist season.’

The report predicts that the Olympics will bring business to South of England and Midlands-based consultancies. Lloyd says, ‘It will be interesting to see whether the procurement process will allow for innovative design.’

s • The value of the contract furnishing sector is estimated at £2.24bn

Segment Value £ millions

Airports 40

Conference facilities 3

Education 215

Hospitals and healthcare 135

Hotels 950

Leisure 220

Marine market 1

Offices 680

• Those segments presenting the best opportunities are education, healthcare, hotels, leisure and airports

• The office market is still ‘very difficult’, while conferencing is experiencing a lull after a period of expansion. The marine market is static in the UK, but very strong outside of the UK

Source: The BCFA Report on the Contract Furniture and Furnishings Market in 2007


• There are six purchasing consortiums for schools and colleges in the UK. Visit http/// online.ogcbuyingsolutions.

• To register as a supplier for universities in Southern England visit http://supc.

• NHS purchasing is conducted centrally. You can register as a supplier with the NHS Purchasing and Supplies Agency. The NHS PASA site is

Start the discussionStart the discussion
  • Post a comment

Latest articles