In September 2022, WRAP commissioned online consumer research into the current attitudes and behaviours of UK citizens in relation to home textiles, including what’s influencing consumers to make a home textiles purchase, through what routes are they buying and disposing of home textile items and what are their in-use habits in relation to those items.
Over 2,000 interviews were conducted with UK citizens aged 18+ who currently own and have purchase decision-making responsibility in their home for at least two of the following 10 homeware items that were covered in the survey: bed sheets, duvet covers, bathroom towels, fabric tablecloths, fabric curtains/blinds, cushion covers, bedspreads/throws, rugs, duvets, and pillows.
The findings – plus a summary of the opportunities for the industry – have been compiled into a new report which is available to download below.
The research reveals that desirable behaviours for home textiles lag behind those for clothing.
Purchase motivations - Price was most frequently cited as a key purchase influence when acquiring home textiles. By contrast, other factors – including the sustainability of the materials – are much weaker purchase influences.
Purchase routes - The use of circular business models for home textiles is far less common than for clothing items, with only 4% of home textiles bought second hand or vintage. Home textile products that do go through a circular business model are perceived to have a shorter lifespan than items bought new.
In-use habits - Wash frequency varies considerably across different home textiles items. Average wash frequency is highest for bathroom towels at six times a month, followed by bedsheets at roughly 4 times a month. There is a high correlation between the number of times people wash their items and their perceived longevity.
Ownership - The average household in the UK owns 57 items of home textiles and there combined estimated longevity is 6.9 years - over two years longer than clothing. On average, just over a fifth of home textiles in a typical UK home has not been used in the past year (or 12 of these items).
Repair - Repair of home textiles is very low. Only 7% of UK citizens said they have repaired the item they answered about.
Disposal routes - Collectively, the most frequently used disposal route is the general rubbish (22% say they “mainly” dispose of items this way or dispose of a “fair amount” of items this way). This is closely followed by charity shops (21%).
The research concluded that among other key opportunities, encouraging the public to take care of their home textiles during the in-use phase will be a key behaviour for brands and retailers to focus on to increase the longevity of their products, limit failure modes and ultimately, reduce their impacts.
There is also potential to build a market for circular business models within the home textiles sector. Consumers should be supported to make use of the items they already own, and where this is not possible, motivated to give home textile products a second life through repair and upcycling, or resale and rental (where appropriate), rather than throwing items in the bin. If a product is not suitable for the second-hand route, retailers should be designing their home textile products to be durable and recyclable.
This report marks the first piece of consumer research WRAP has conducted on home textiles and provides a timely follow-on from our citizen insights report on clothing longevity in the UK, published in October 2022.
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Sam Cutler, Head of Environment and Sustainability at Hillarys Blinds, said: “Insights like these are useful for home textiles businesses like Hillarys as home textiles such as ours generally have a longer life than clothing. Understanding in more detail how they are used within homes will be really important for us as we think about how we can influence customer behaviour and how we can improve the circularity of our products as we creep towards the Textiles 2030 targets.”
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Citizen Insights: Estimating the Longevity of Home Textiles in the UK
PDF, 1.64 MB