Home Retail Group introduce innovative packaging


Home Retail Group, the UK's leading home and general merchandiser, recognised through the Argos and Homebase brands, is delighted to announce the introduction of an innovative packaging system for upholstered furniture the reusable sofa bag.

Home Retail Group’s sofa bag is a replacement for traditional sofa packaging and is introduced at the point of manufacture before items are containerised for delivery to the UK. The enhanced packaging will not incur any additional delivery cost to the customer.


Maria Thompson, commercial director, Home Retail Group said: “The sofa bag has been developed by Home Retail Group and it represents the culmination of several years’ testing and trial. We believe that there are clear benefits for the environment, the business and our customers by making use of reusable and recyclable packaging and from reducing the amount of packaging associated with the products we sell. It demonstrates our continued commitment to the reduction of waste going to landfill.”


In the UK, there is over 5 million items of upholstered furniture purchased each year (based on GfK Marketing Report (Sept 2009)) and, until now, substantial amounts of packaging have been required to ensure upholstered furniture is delivered in good condition. Traditionally these items are packaged using a combination of plastic sheeting and corrugated cardboard. Inadequate packaging may result in under-protected goods during transit, leading to poor customer satisfaction, increased level of returns and damaged goods which are then discarded as waste, with a cost to the business and the environment.


Once delivered, customers are responsible for disposal of the packaging, usually to landfill. Figures suggest that 15,000 tonnes of packaging waste (averaged on 3kgs packaging per sofa) from upholstered furniture is disposed of every year.


As part of Home Retail Group’s commitment to Corporate Responsibility the business wanted to produce a protective cover which would reduce landfill packaging, which was reusable and recyclable and was more durable, giving an improved service to customers.


The initial concept was developed several years ago and piloted with funding from WRAP (Waste & Resource Action Programme) with the main trial taking place over the last eighteen months.


Mike Robey, Retail Programme Manager – Home Improvement, at WRAP said: “We’re delighted that the trial findings have been taken on board with this launch so that the benefits of reusable packaging can be realised on a substantial scale. Our experience of reusable packaging indicates that the benefits are three-fold; greater convenience for the customer, cost-savings for the retailer and environmental benefits from using resources more efficiently, reducing packaging and the risk of product damage.


“Home Retail Group is a founding member of WRAP’s Home Improvement Sector Commitment which aims to reduce packaging and waste to landfill. Reusable packaging represents one of the biggest opportunities to reach the ambitious targets set out in that agreement as illustrated by this launch.”


The final design is a folded envelope of reinforced bubble wrap material, not unlike a giant Jiffy Bag. It has a protective outer covering of low density polyethelylene (LPDE) and an inner lining of non-woven polypropylene tissue. The edging tape and stitching are also polypropylene, ensuring every component is recyclable. It is produced in four sizes, to accommodate chairs, large and small two seater sofas, and three seater sofas. When the lifecycle is exhausted the bags are recycled into the normal plastic recycle waste stream.


Atlas Bubble was commissioned by Home Retail Group to produce the packaging which they manufacture in the Far East. Mike Coughlan, partner at Atlas Bubble said: “The sofa bag has achieved the ‘Holy Grail’ in terms of total protection and multi trip reusability for the furniture industry. It’s everything we set out to do and more in terms of total protection and multi trip performance. It ticks all the boxes for furniture protection, reuse, handling and it’s totally recyclable, so nothing goes to landfill.”


As the first retailer to introduce the completely reusable, fully recyclable packaging concept, the biggest challenge for Home Retail Group was to establish a ‘closed loop’ usage process. This follows the packaging from manufacture including delivery to the UK and onward through the distribution network to the customer, and back again, ensuring bags are inspected, cleaned and re-distributed to be reused by the manufacturer.


Almost 6,000 deliveries were made during the extensive testing. The ‘unpack and takeaway’ packaging proved popular with customers. ”I’m delighted; it saves me a special trip to the local tip.” “…It’s great that’s it’s taken away and I don’t have to worry about it.” “…the packaging wouldn’t have fitted in my waste bin.”


Home Retail Group plans a phased introduction of the reusable sofa bag. The roll-out commences at the beginning of February 2010 with furniture manufactured in the Far East. European manufactured items will be following later in the year.


Argos and Homebase deliver thousands of sofas each year, so estimates suggest this packaging will prevent at least 1,800 tonnes of customer waste being sent to landfill which is the equivalent weight of over 250 Routemaster double decker buses every year!