Peter-Guy L’Amie, Director at woollen yarn supplier Lawton Yarns, discusses the consumer perceptions of wool carpet that flooring retailers need to know about.

What are the first things that spring to mind when thinking about wool carpet? High quality, comfort and durability are the most commonly referenced attributes of this natural wonder material. But how about wool carpet being easy to clean, hypoallergenic, or fire-retardant?

Wool carpet has long had a reputation for being a quality flooring choice, but in reality the natural benefits go far beyond this. To uncover attitudes towards different carpet types and what drives consumers in determining their flooring purchases, we at Lawton Yarns commissioned a survey of 1,000 British homeowners from independent research firm OnePoll.

The Role of the Independent Retailer

The results of the consumer survey made one thing very clear- flooring retailers have a vital role to play in the decision- making process, one that typically takes place only once every eight to ten years.

Our research revealed that homeowners much preferred ‘bricks’ over ‘clicks’ when it comes to flooring inspiration and advice, with 52% of consumers reporting that they would turn to independent retailers for advice on their flooring and 43% seeking out retailers for inspiration over social media, websites or e-zines.

Independent flooring retailers clearly have a fundamental role in influencing flooring purchasing decisions, and therefore have a key part to play in filling the wool carpet knowledge gap.

Consumer Confusion

What surprised us about the consumer survey results was the similarities in answers between younger age groups and older generations. While most respondents had opted for carpet (67%) over hard flooring in their homes, there appeared to be significant confusion amongst consumers when choosing a carpet type and deciding between a wool or wool-rich blend versus a synthetic make-up. Nearly a third (32%) of consumers reported that they did not know which carpet composition they prefer and there was a clear lack of knowledge on the full breadth of wool’s key performance benefits.

For example, 60% of homeowners were unable to decipher which floor covering is the most fire retardant – despite 23% stating fire resistance to be the most important attribute of flooring for a child’s bedroom - and 40% were unsure which material would be most resistant to the ‘flattening’ effect seen in high traffic areas over time - both factors being important features of wool carpet.

Perceptions of Wool’s Key Attributes

Based on the results of our survey and feedback from independent flooring retailers, it is clear that there is a low level of consumer understanding around the benefits of wool.

20 | Tomorrow’s Retail Floors

Comfort, durability and quality ranked as wool’s top three attributes amongst consumers, whereas the sustainability, ease of cleaning and hypoallergenic qualities of wool carpet ranked of lower importance, at 22%, 19% and 4% respectively, despite these being key features of wool carpet that bring added value and benefits to a consumer’s home.

Despite the confusion around the advantages of wool carpet, it’s clear that wool remains a fibre of choice amongst consumers, 28% of whom stated they would choose a pure wool carpet compared to the 7% favouring entirely synthetic products. Furthermore, though wool is often associated with artisan crafts and celebrated for its traditional heritage, man- made carpets were considered far more unfashionable.

The Natural Wonder of Wool

As a natural, biodegradable and sustainable fibre, wool and wool-rich carpets offer a series of stand-out features that few consumers are currently considering. Perhaps one of the lesser known advantages of wool carpet is that wool fibre filters the air and regulates humidity to improve indoor air quality. The structure of wool carpet, with fibres in the pile standing vertical from the backing, creates a greater fibre area to absorb harmful gases and air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.

It’s time for both retailers and manufacturers to work together to take the benefits of nature’s wonder material to consumers.

Another powerful natural attribute of wool is its fire resistance. Wool’s cross-linked cell membrane structure and chemical makeup contribute to its fire retardant and self- extinguishing properties. It has a high ignition temperature of 570-600 degrees, releases low levels of heat energy in the burning process and is able to create an insulating char that prevents the spread of flames. Because of wool’s high nitrogen and water content, it also requires higher levels of oxygen in the surrounding area in order to burn. As consumers look for flooring solutions that can improve safety within their home without the use of flame resistant chemicals that release toxic fumes, wool carpet provides a reliable, untreated and natural alternative.

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