Eco-friendly furnishings are gaining marketplace momentum

By Michael Posa, FTS

Happy autumn, all. Now that we have moved past last spring’s “I can’t get enough product” phase and last summer’s “What do I do with all this product?” period, it’s clear that we’re approaching some quasi-normal seasonality.

That said, there will still be some pain for retailers and vendors over the coming months as we work toward more of a supply-demand balance. As a result, we are expecting margin squeeze at retail with real downward pressure on average selling prices (ASPs) due to promotions from the major national and regional players. (Let us know how we can help you move through more goods; your AVB Marketing team is ready to roll on helping you promote!)

But I’m sure you’ve read enough about the supply-demand muddle, so let’s instead discuss product trends. One important one we’re seeing, which established itself online and is now escalating in-store, is that of millennials and younger consumers shopping not by collection, but rather by mixing and matching unique pieces.

Elsewhere, on the finish front, leather is moving beyond its traditional demographic and penetrating other consumer populations, while palette-wise, the heavy gray aesthetic still reigns although color is making a comeback.

Another major statement we are seeing is the continuation of a trend that was well underway prior to the pandemic: the move toward more sustainable and eco-friendly introductions. We are seeing this both in furniture and mattress. The growth of this category clearly stems from consumer demand for safe, healthful and natural products, as well as a desire to help protect the environment. With COVID fears waning, “sanitary” is no longer the big industry buzzword it once was, either in-store or on products.

You can see the eco-trend blossoming with last summer’s launch of the Sealy Naturals bedding line, which features organic cotton, 100% natural latex, hemp fibers and an ethically sourced wool blend. Similarly, Serta will be out with an iComfort Eco line in the first quarter of next year.

To get a sense of how vendors are approaching sustainability, we’ve included some excerpts from a FurnitureToday article from earlier this year:

Scott Thompson, chairman/CEO, Tempur Sealy: “We have been focused on sustainability for years. Just like we are the leader in global bedding, we aim to be the leader in environmental, social and corporate governance [ESG] in our sector. Our efforts have so far resulted in more than 91% of waste being recycled in our wholly owned North American operations [and] recycling 94% of the Tempur-Pedic products returned to us.”

James Booth, COO, Corsicana Mattress: “Another area of focus is on sourcing biodegradable materials and minimizing landfill waste. For example, in our Bartow, Fla., facility we have formed a partnership with NuCycle Energy, an alternative energy company, and we are now able to recycle our end-of-life clean industrial materials. Through this effort we were able to cut waste reduction by 56%.”

Alan Hirschhorn, executive VP sales, GhostBed: “Our approach is to do our best to manufacture and distribute our mattresses in a way that minimizes negative impacts on the environment whenever we can. For example, our new Venus Williams collection features a sustainable cover that consists of 25% recycled plastic bottles. We are also in the process of developing a foam that will be formulated to use at least 25% of post-consumable items.”

Eugene Alletto, CEO, Bedgear: “Bedgear relies on recycled materials in our packaging and products to help reduce the carbon footprint. One of our policies is to use recycled plastic bottles and repurposed scraps of new foam to compose our pillow fills.”

Shaun Pennington, president, Diamond Mattress: “From a product perspective, we are offering more sustainable materials and components such as natural latex and certified organic cotton and wool, all of which are in our Natural Ethos collection that debuted in 2021.”

If any further eco-encouragement is needed, a recent blog by the producers of the IMM Cologne fair cited a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which showed that “Sustainability is a crucial factor for three quarters of consumers when they are buying furniture. This makes ‘green’ furniture attractive to manufacturers and furniture retailers not just from an ideological perspective, but also from a commercial one.”

The takeaway? Keep sustainability and being green in mind when purchasing products. Your customers do.

Michael Posa is general manager of home furnishings and Furniture Technology Source (FTS) lead for YSN publisher AVB Inc.

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