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From Home Furnishing Business

Small Steps


By Sheila Long O'Mara

The greening of the industry is important, but consumers aren’t quite all in yet.

Let’s take a walk back in time.  We in the furniture industry have been talking about the greening of the buisness for a while now.


The movement toward an industry that is more environmentally sensitive has been an up and down trail impacted by a number of things—the recession that hit, lack of consumer awareness and yes, even a bit of infighting among players in the industry. Thankfully, the cantankerous days are mostly behind us, and the movement has been making strides.


A number of big name retailers have put sustainbility at the forefront of their business strategy. I’m thinking  Ikea, the Williams-Sonoma family of brands, Restoration Hardware, Crate & Barrel and Room & Board. Each of these brands have powerful name recognition among consumers, and they’re helping in their own way to create buzz around  sustainability.


Smaller, more niche retailers have committed to taking big steps to make a difference in the greeing of furnitureland.


However, our target consumer isn’t quite there yet. She needs a bit more nudging and a lot more education on the matter. Nearly half of consumers in the latest Green Home Furnishings Study were not aware eco-friendly options were available in furniture. That’s a signifcant number in an industry filled with green choices and not so green choices. However, the bottom line is that the story, the craftsmanship and the benefit to the environment isn’t being told by the marketing departments. Nor is it being told on the sales floor while customers are in the mood to buy.


No great shifts in society ever happen overnight, in a few months or even a few years. The shift to sustainable home furnishings will ebb and flow, gain steam and lose momentum as we continue down the path;  and external forces, like the economy, will continue to impact the progress we make.


The thought leaders—those that believe and lead others one small step by one small step—will evenutally make the difference. First comes one person, followed by two more, followed by a community. The furniture industry has those leaders who have already stepped up and are making a difference.


Here’s to more of those leaders willing to teeter on the edge for a better, environmentally friendly world, and to those who are eager to tell the story so consumers will care.


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