13619 Wed, 01/23/2008 - 4:19pm
NEW YORK–The market for organic and environmentally friendly home textiles products has been skyrocketing, and will continue to blaze an upward track for the next few years.
This is the main conclusion from a new research study on the category. Prepared by Specialists in Business Information (SBI), the report said U.S. sales of organic and eco-friendly home textiles will rise by 40 percent from 2007 to 2010, and that globally, sales will reach $6.8 billion in 2010, more than six times as much as they were in 2007.
According to an SBI statement on the findings, this growth will be supported by programs among retailers that lead to an acceleration of organic cotton production—programs that involve partnerships between retailers, brands and farmers of organic products. The market climate for such growth is already favorable.
“Shifts in consumer purchasing behavior are already being observed as organic products become more readily available,” the SBI statement said.
While the organic category’s prospects are strong, brands and retailers still need to give consumers a push in the direction of these products, and communication is a key element here.
“A key factor … is to educate the consumer on why exactly these products are value-added, especially those that are pricier,” SBI said. “Through product packaging, signage and other means, many shoppers need to be persuaded to buy eco-linens.”
There is a particular need for consumer education considering the lack of attention these products have received in public forums versus the attention organic food and apparel have gotten.
“In household linens, eco-friendliness has yet to achieve the awareness and status that Egyptian cotton and high thread counts, for instance, have enjoyed in the bed and bath segments,” SBI said.
“Moreover, because organic products cost more, consumers may have difficulty justifying the purchase of ‘green’ linens, or understanding why they should bother seeking them out in the first place,” according to SBI.
Also, brands and retailers must counteract the perception of green textiles products as being rough to the touch, available only in beige and less functional than mainstream linens. This, SBI said, is no longer a valid viewpoint. Manufacturers and retailers now introduce such products in a variety of colors and styles, which are “heavy hitters” in performance.
“Marketers must communicate to consumers that environmentally friendly household linens are available in value-added propositions, offering style and performance like competing products do, as well as making consumers feel good about their purchases,” SBI said. “More palatable price points are expected as the market grows, making more products available at more mainstream outlets, further enhancing consumer awareness.”
Many retailers, too, need to be persuaded about eco-friendly home textiles. SBI said that “retailers won’t carry products without consumer demand, but consumers won’t demand eco-friendly products if they don’t know why they should want them.”
Consumer education is partly the retailers’ responsibility, “and retailer education [as well as consumer education] is the responsibility of manufacturers and marketers.”
Surveying product introductions, SBI found that about 15 percent of the companies the research firm profiled offered products that were eco-friendly in one way or another. Of these, about 45 percent were primarily bath textiles, 41 percent were bedding, 7 percent were table linens and 6 percent were kitchen textiles.
Three-fourths of these products made environmentally friendly fiber-related claims, regarding the use of organic materials; organic cotton; bamboo or bamboo blends; or yarns made of soy, maize, beech or other eco-friendly materials.
While, as SBI noted, some retailers have been reluctant to stock organic or green textiles, others have stepped up to the plate with programs under their own labels. SBI cited Bed Bath & Beyond, Target and Pottery Barn—the latter with its Exclusive Naturals organic-cotton collection of quilts, shams, duvet covers and sheet sets.
But the champ among the retail chains is Belks, with its exclusive partnership with Homestead in the MaryJanesFarm Home line of organic linens and other products. This grouping is designed by MaryJane Butters, the celebrity organic farmer. — David Gill