Furniture Today is a trade resource that publishes furniture industry news, trends, predictions and articles on macroeconomic events that are likely to impact consumer spending on furniture and mattresses. The topic of sustainability is one that has been gaining momentum over the past few years. Furniture Today recently shared polls from retailers and consumers about their willingness to pay more for "sustainable" home furnishings and mattresses. What is clear is that neither the retailers nor the consumers can actually define the scope of the word.
The results were that consumers who are buying higher end product are likelier to pay more for sustainable home furnishings and mattresses than consumers buying lower priced furnishings and mattresses. This clearly makes sense because consumers with less discretionary income use price as the primary influential factor to make a purchase and consumers with more have the luxury of factoring their values into the purchasing decision. Sustainability is currently more important in certain geographical regions and a nascent whisper in others.
What I have observed for decades is that most manufacturers and retailers seem to misunderstand the consumers who want more sustainable products. These consumers tend to fall into two categories that have some overlap. There are consumers who prioritize reuse and circularity to keep products, components and packaging that do not biodegrade out of landfills. Then there are consumers who want to buy only products that are non-toxic and don't harm humans and the entire ecosystem. These consumers look for natural inputs that have certifications that define inputs and purity. They value transparency and eschew the dreaded "proprietary" non-disclosures. The latter contingency believes that since the Industrial Revolution, unregulated chemicals are ubiquitous and a main ingredient in, not just our food supply, but also, in our buildings, furnishings, apparel, pharmaceuticals, personal care and cleaning products. They view unregulated chemicals as a contributing cause of the ecosystem collapse and the increase of many health conditions and diseases that afflict humans in industrialized nations.
As a result, I have often pondered why manufacturer and retailers seem to keep bringing product to market that addresses the concerns of just the first set of consumers that I defined. If the products addressed the requirements of the second contingency then products would be biodegradable, healthful, circular and drastically reduce microfiber plastics, PFAS, flame retardants, BPA and many more chemicals that are debilitating the entire ecosystem. This leads me to ask if the survey can be conducted to focus on very specific aspects of sustainability to get a true understanding of what consumers will pay more for and what retailers would then ask of their manufacturers.
Given my area of focus and passion, I would like to know what the results would be if consumers were polled to respond to this question. "How much more would you pay for products that are free of known toxic chemical components that could impair the health of humans and the ecosystem?"
I know that nobody reads this blog. However, I am challenging two home furnishings legends, Warren Shoulberg and Jerry Epperson, to explore this very specific question that is a criterion in sustainability. Tag. You're it.
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