What has been happening in the interior design sector
The interior design sector in the UK is very much fashion led and is susceptible to changes in the economic climate. During the late 1980s the economic boom led to strong growth in the sector and to demand for complex" expensive designs from both domestic and commercial customers. The recession that followed at the start of the 1990s had a marked effect and many firms had to downsize or even close down. This resulted in many firms offering design services to suit all budgets. An increase in interest in DIY and home decoration in the early 2000s led to an expansion in the sector again and this growth was also helped by the popularity and number of interior design based television programmes.
Buoyant economic conditions at the end of the 1990s and start of the 2000s led to an increase in demand for large and complex projects particularly from the commercial sector. The booming housing market during the early 2000s increased demand from the domestic sector as many homeowners released equity in their homes to fund projects such as home improvement. However the mid 2000s saw a slowdown in the economy and the housing market which started to affect demand for interior design services from both domestic and commercial customers.
The economic downturn that began in the late 2000s further affected consumer spending on furnishings and household services. There were notable casualties in the sector as a result of the difficult trading conditions. For example in 2008 the MFI furniture chain went into administration as did the Swedish chain Ilva. Spending on interior design by the commercial sector also reduced as many businesses were struggling and fewer new ventures were started. However the slowdown in the housing market during the same period helped the interior design sector to a certain extent as many homeowners who were unable to move house reportedly chose to improve their existing homes - the so-called 'can't move improve' trend.
The housing market recovered slightly in 2010 with a small increase in the number of transactions over the previous year. However the market remained very sluggish and the total number of transactions for the year was only just over half the number recorded at the peak of the boom in 2006. With the economy remaining depressed in 2011 and first-time buyers continuing to find it difficult to get on the housing ladder due to high prices and lack of available mortgages the number of transactions remained sluggish.
Government help for house buyers then helped to stimulate the housing market and the number of transactions increased as a result. By 2013 there were over one million housing transactions - the first time since the late 2000s that the number of transactions had exceeded the one million mark. An improving economic situation from the second half of 2013 has helped to boost the housing market and 2014 saw another increase in the number of transactions to around 1.2 million despite the introduction of tougher mortgage rules from April of that year. The number of housing transactions then increased only very slightly in 2015. According to government figures spending on furniture and furnishings carpets and other floor coverings fell from £18 billion in 2007 to £15.5 billion in 2010 but has since recovered to pre-downturn levels and stood at around £18.5 billion in 2015.
Keep up to date with developments
The British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) is the main professional association representing the interests of interior designers. BIID provides career guidance to those considering working in the sector and also publishes a number of helpful publications such as the 'Interior Design Job book' " which sets out the professional standard for running an interior design project. Visit the BIID website for more details.
Trade journals such as Design Week can help you to keep up to date with the latest trends and developments in the sector. Visit the Design Week website for further information.
It can be useful to attend trade shows and exhibitions such as Decorex so that you can meet suppliers and keep abreast of developments in the industry. The Exhibitions UK website includes details of trade shows that may be of interest to you.