Nearly a third of UK shoppers would choose their next sofa based on the retailer’s sustainability credentials, according to a survey of UK shoppers carried out by retail technology specialist Red Ant.

The survey, which sought insight for retailers around today’s biggest drivers for home and furniture purchases, found that 30% of shoppers would choose their next bed or sofa based on the retailer’s sustainability credentials for removal and recycling their old furniture – revealing that environmentally responsible manufacture/removal and recycling of old furniture is a priority for shoppers in the buying process, and indicating an increased expectation for retailers to accommodate environmental factors within their customer service policies.  

The survey also showed that, when buying a large piece of furniture, what mattered most to consumers was feeling good in surroundings that look good and come from a good place, all of which are key to wellbeing – 90% of shoppers said that looking good and complementing decor was important, and 70% said that comfort and functionality were key. 

In line with customers’ increasing concerns about the conscientious use of resources and making sure they buy responsibly, those surveyed have high expectations when it comes to longevity, although personal style still plays a part – 65% expect their large furniture purchases to last from 10 years to a lifetime, and are happy to spend extra for this, while 35% are prepared to replace their furniture whenever they change decor, as having a harmonious space helps them feel calm and secure. 

Red Ant’s research resoundingly confirmed that, for committing to purchasing significant pieces of this nature, while online can be efficient, it cannot beat an in-store experience – 95% of respondents said that they value visiting stores, being able to physically try before buying and seeing what the style and colours look like in real life. This was backed by their real-world experiences - 90% reported always having a great experience in-store, while 55% said that they had an unsatisfactory experience online because their item was damaged, not delivered or not what they were expecting. 

Sarah Friswell, CEO at Red Ant, says: “What comes across loud and clear from this survey is that home and furniture shoppers are looking for three things to be right so that they get maximum comfort and joy from their purchases: the right experience before they buy, where they can try different items, see alternative colours and ensure their choices suit their ambitions for their home; the right credentials when it comes to manufacturing, sustainability, and longevity, so that they can rest assured that they’ve made a good decision (this being a deal-breaker for 30% of those surveyed shows that retailers will need to step up to be on 'eco parity' with buyers; and lastly, the right companion to share their space with, to make the most of those little moments of calm and happiness. 

"Our survey reveals that retailers need to listen to the social agenda of customers and to enable a hybrid in-store/online presence with human sales consultants to support buyers’ journey and make a sale.”

See November's issue of Furniture News for a broader discussion of the sustainable sofa movement.