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Maison&Objet barometer:

Challenges and opportunities: what are the new prospects for the market?

Every 6 months, Maison&Objet delivers a “weather report” on the conditions in our industry. 'After successive storms and unsettled conditions that are still underway, the industry is getting back to a more stable pattern that’s ushering in new opportunities,' Maison&Objet explains. 'These include the promising wellness market, which our new survey has put under the microscope.'

Photo © Nikolai Zotov |

The state of affairs: troubles affecting the entire industry
Out of the 1,133 international professionals who replied to our questionnaire throughout October, more than two-thirds of them stated that their sales have remained stable or have increased over the past four months. This is particularly the case for specifiers. 75% of them said that their numbers are up compared to the previous barometer. This result is even more remarkable if you consider the challenges faced by decorators, architects, and space planners. A French survey of building contractors in early 2023 estimated that the price of materials increased by 27% year-on-year.

Retailers and brands have been similarly affected by these increases, which are impacting both margins and sales. COVID, the war in Ukraine, Brexit (for some), and especially inflation – which the Maison&Objet barometer in February 2022 had already measured the considerable impacts of on all types of businesses in the industry. This state of the industry confirms that these problems remain omnipresent.

Whereas pessimism was the rule at the end of 2022, prospects for the next 4 months are looking up for 37% of professionals surveyed. Therefore, this new edition of the survey confirms a relative recovery that the April 2023 barometer hinted at. On the Retail side, 33% of French respondents are optimistic, whereas this proportion goes up to 52% of international retailers. For Specifiers, this geographic disparity is also notable: 29% of French specifiers feel optimistic, whereas 51% of international ones do. And finally, in terms of Brands, 87% of them plan to launch new products within the next 4 months and are showing stable inventory levels.

The digital stakes
Beyond the numbers, the barometer offers the chance for respondents to express themselves more broadly in terms of how they feel about the market, on both specific issues and on solutions that each professional may develop. Matters raised by professionals included online sales channels. Though the transition to digital has been a given for quite a while now, critical voices are emerging, echoing those that have made the international news of late.

Facebook or Instagram’s modification of their rules or algorithms for example, seem to leave less space for smaller stakeholders to stand out and are impacting their business. 'The Google search rankings in place since 2015 widely favour large companies,' notes the agent for a Belgian brand of children’s furniture. Also: 'Amazon in an unfair competitor…They use monopolistic practices while putting pressure on their suppliers to get the best prices. When will we have some European regulation on this?,' complains a Spanish buyer. Many are calling for greater legislation and regulation, notably of repeat discount offers online.

The industry is also raising questions about AI and its impact on all our professions. 'We are very interested in expanding our marketing activity by making use of AI in support of all our communication. The continued demand to create outstanding content is an ever-present must for a digitally focused business,' a lighting brand based in the UK has stated. On the design side, caution is the order of the day: 'Chances are that we’re moving toward design generated by algorithms and, thus, toward a drastic depletion of what makes humans unique, in other words, our capacity to create,' worries the founder of a Parisian architectural firm.

The need to educate consumers
'We need to educate the consumer more and more about the real cost of things, whether it’s the cost of labour or quality,' states an interior design professional. 'The market is saturated with offers, some of which are at discounted prices, but the client has trouble understanding the difference,' adds an interior designer.
Inflation isn’t helping tip the scales in favour of quality or sustainability and is sharpening the dilemma for the client who was often cited in our previous barometers.

'It’s always an ethical debate when artisans creating an original product, supporting an authentic upliftment project, and using expensive materials to ensure a high-quality product, get copied by mass producers and then flood the market with cheap copies. How do we protect the artisan, and how do we educate the consumer?' emphasizes a South African brand.

Standing out from the crowd through experience
Whether it’s about making a name for yourself, attracting new customers, or transforming a visit into a purchase, the solutions highlighted in the survey focus on differentiation. 'The art of the matter now consists of reaching out to the client using all their senses and offering personalized advice,' recommends a Munich-based product designer. 'You have to build stories around each product, create events, invitations, culinary demonstrations…Customers appreciate this type of special relationship,' ensures a Swiss retailer. This type of differentiation can happen via a selection of more unique products.

New markets, new clients
The development of workspaces within residential projects, the shift toward more dynamic international markets, the offering of new coaching services…These options, which were explored and mentioned in the survey by industry stakeholders, are proof of their fighting spirit and capacity to adapt and recover. Among the most promising prospects are those for the wellness market. 'Well-being is the major trend in our society and industry. We’ve had a wellness department in our store for several years. Nowadays, nearly 15% of our turnover comes from wellness-related items, and the sales of wellness items are still increasing.'

This trend has already been widely adopted by specifiers, 78% of whom are seeing increasing demand for wellness spaces. 84% of them have noticed this same desire within their hotel projects, 55% within restaurant projects, and 64% within boutique and retail design projects. Even more astonishing is the fact that 75% of specifiers state that they are involved in the acoustic ambiance of spaces, and 69% in setting the olfactory mood. Such intangible needs demonstrate a truly real desire for well-being.

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