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HKTDC Houseware Fair 2011 Seminar
Green Growth

  The booming eco houseware sector prides itself on using natural materials
  The booming eco houseware sector
prides itself on using natural materials
 
Imaginative concepts such as feeding worms with food waste can become big in the small-yet-expanding eco houseware market, an innovative UK retailer said at Asia’s largest household products fair.

“The environmental housewares market is influenced by the ethical thinking consumer who cares about the world,” Lakeland co-owner Martin Rayner told a seminar at the HKTDC Hong Kong Houseware Fair 2011. “This market is very small at the moment, but the ethical consumer segment is growing faster than the rest of the economy.”

He was speaking on the market potential of eco houseware products in the UK, which offered insights into global markets at large.

“The growth in the UK economy is very small – in short, it is stagnant,” Mr Rayner admitted. “Cutbacks in government expenditure have influenced consumer expenditure.”

“Organic food sales are down 6% where this was previously a growth market. The press have played on this drop to say that ethical consumers are now more concerned with their purses than their ethics.”

Nevertheless, he noted there were also positive signs. “The Cooperative Bank, a leading ethical bank, reported this year that ethical spending in the UK has risen 18% in two years, a growth exceeding that of the overall market,” said Mr Rayner, although he added that a lot of that increase did not come from houseware. “All production is in some way unfriendly to the environment, but we need to find the friendliest course.”

The businessman illustrated the latest eco-product trends with items featuring unusual materials or designs. “A charming duck family, for example, is one of our garden ornaments. We source it from Zimbabwe where the manufacturer uses recycled steel oil drums to create it.”

The recycling notion also inspired the Wormery. “It’s a box of worms that feed on your vegetable scraps. It cuts down the food disposal problem and the creation of methane gas. It also produces top quality soil and fertiliser for your garden, and keeps the worms happy. It’s all part of helping ensure the world keeps viable,” said Mr Rayner.

He also pointed to the popularity of lights powered by renewable energy. “I think customers want to be seen to help in our quest for more environmentally friendly ways of creating heat and light. First it was solar lights, now it’s wind energy. This light source is selling well and showing us what needs to be done next.”

Solar lights continue to sell well, he advised. “I think, however, that the quality of the solar elements needs addressing to give more power to the lights.”

Based in a famous region of natural beauty — the Lake District in northern England — Lakeland engages in online, catalogue and in-store retailing of creative houseware and gifts sourced from all over the world.

“Lakeland comes from a beautiful part of the UK. As a result we are sympathetic to the environment. Our customers also expect us to be environmentally friendly,” explained Mr Rayner.

He said eco-friendly operations were as important as eco-friendly products.

“Our company is powered 100% by power generated from wind, water or solar power. We use a lot of natural light in our distribution centre. We adopt environmentally friendly policies because our customers expect us to,” maintained Mr Rayner.

He claimed that Lakeland’s carrier shopper bags use recycled material that is five times thicker than the average supermarket shopper bag and can therefore be used repeatedly.

“When the bag’s life is finished, bring it back and we will recycle it and make more carrier bags.”