Circular economy

Need to catch up in the furniture industry

German consumers expect more offers in the direction of reuse and recycling. This requires suitable business models, says expert Oliver Schurack in an interview, who has just conducted a study on the Circular Economy.

May 23 2022

Sustainability, circular economy, careful use of resources, climate protection – these are topics that are also leaving their mark on the German furniture industry. On the one hand, this is due to the legal requirements and the increasing pressure from politics; for example, the EU is currently massively pushing the reuse and recycling of products. 

On the other hand, consumers also expect corresponding measures today. This is proven by a consumer study on the Circular Economy conducted on a broad basis in 17 European countries by the financial company Consors Finanz. According to the study, almost 70 percent of Germans are familiar with the basics of the circular economy (reduce, reuse, recycle). 

However, ideas such as renting instead of buying products or second-hand offers have not yet established themselves much in the furniture industry: Only 16 percent of Germans can currently imagine buying used furniture.

The trade would now have to create corresponding offers on its own, says Consors Finanz. This would also make sense because most consumers think that the realisation of a circular economy depends above all on the products.  

Valuable resources such as wood are conserved in the circular economy  among other things, this makes a valuable contribution to climate protection. © unsplash/Kostiantyn Li

Expert Interview on the Circular Economy 

In the interview, Oliver Schurack, Head of Financial Solutions at Consors Finanz, analyses what the furniture industry is already doing and which approaches towards more sustainability are promising.  

Renting products is becoming more and more popular, but in the furniture sector there is still a strong reluctance to do so. What do you think is the reason for this? 

Furniture is about more than just owning it, like a garden tool, for example. A home and the objects in it reflect our personality. That means we have a very special emotional relationship with furniture. Our study confirms that for a large majority of Germans and Europeans, property is still very important in this segment. 

Only eight percent of the German consumers surveyed can imagine borrowing or renting furniture. The European average is ten percent. On the other hand, there are hardly any rental offers in the furniture segment that interested consumers could take advantage of – except in the office furniture segment. 

Could furniture retailers who start corresponding offers here be successful – or is the market simply not ready for it yet? 

In a way, this is also a chicken-and-egg problem. We see with cars, bicycles or electric articles that with a growing number of attractive rental offers, the willingness to rent is growing. In other consumer segments, the rental model is still in its infancy and not all new business models find acceptance among consumers. 

Basically, the trend towards more sustainability and conscious consumption does not stop at the furniture trade. Retailers are also faced with the task of taking this into account in the further development of their business models in the furniture sector. 

The recycling of used furniture also does not yet play a major role. Would there also be a need for offers on a broad basis here for the first time? And if so, would the established dealers be more likely to manage this or will there be specialists? 

Of course, it is also important here to create a market for consumers that is characterised by a broader, more innovative offer. The established traders have the shops, the sales space and the market penetration.

Young and specialised suppliers come up with new ideas and business models and address target groups that may be more open to sustainable issues. Established retailers could join forces with new suppliers to develop creative and sustainable concepts together.   

The circular economy still offers opportunities overall. Are there business models in the furniture industry that already show this? 

There are already shopping places where you can only buy used goods and upcycled products, among others from a Swedish furniture company. The shopping centre functions as a materials yard, workshop and event centre at the same time. 

This is a very innovative concept that is well received. In addition, possible approaches and potentials for circular solutions, including leasing, buy-back models, resale and repair services, are already being tested.  

And in Germany? 

In Germany, too, some online retailers are already leading the way. In addition to their main assortment, they are establishing marketplaces for used and refurbished items of all kinds. Especially in big cities, the number of re-use shops is growing, which either exclusively offer second-hand or refurbished articles or at least reserve part of their shop space for this purpose. 

Oliver Schurack, Head of Financial Solutions Consors Finanz: "There are hardly any rental offers in the furniture sector so far."

© Consors Finanz, provided 

Author: Robert Prazak 

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