A family-owned furniture retailer, founded by two young RAF men following the end of the second world war, is leading the charge for sustainable retail.
Barker and Stonehouse is beginning its 75th anniversary year by being awarded Carbon Neutral Plus status, which means that it is reducing emissions above and beyond its own carbon footprint. It is the first UK furniture retailer of scale to achieve this.
Building on this milestone, Barker and Stonehouse has pledged to plant at least 75,000 trees this year – including one for every delivery the company’s fleet makes.
Innovation is also high on the agenda, with a further pledge to initiate meaningful conversations around sustainability with its key suppliers.
During the last 12 months it has successfully launched two world-first products, namely the Big Blue upholstery range and the Loop mattress. The Big Blue product uses materials that are sustainably sourced as well as all of its fabric and cushion fillings being made from 100% recycled plastic retrieved from the ocean. The results are a luxurious fabric and extremely comfortable cushions that have made this one of the company’s best-selling sofas.
Similarly, the Loop mattress uses the finest natural components and is 100% recyclable, the result of two years’ research and development. With mattresses being one of the main culprits for landfill in the UK the Loop’s recyclability is a huge step forward.
Due to the success of these products with customers the company has been encouraged to now take these initiatives further and faster.
James Barker explained: “Customer response to our sustainably produced furniture has been terrific. These pieces are quickly becoming best-sellers, showing that customers want to be able to find furniture they can buy with good conscience.
“We now want to significantly increase the volume of furniture we sell to be made using environmentally sound practices. It’s a complex task, but we are already working closely with our supply chain to achieve this.”
Alongside a major focus on eco projects there will be continued investment in new jobs. The company is building its own digital production studio complex, in which to produce content around all aspects of furniture, interiors and design. This will be offered to inform, educate and inspire a growing number of the company’s customers and its social media communities.
Barker and Stonehouse was founded in Stockton on Tees in 1946 by Charles Barker and Alex Stonehouse, who set about creating a furniture store aimed at delivering a little pizzazz to a weary post-war Britain.
Managing director James Barker is the third generation of his family to run the business, following in the footsteps of his father Richard who bought out the Stonehouse family interest in 1974.
To mark the start of the company’s 75th anniversary year, James said: “It’s fantastic to look back and see how far we’ve come since my grandfather opened the doors of our first store in 1946.
“Something especially rewarding, is recently being independently accredited as a Carbon Neutral Plus company. This means that we are eradicating the environmental impact of the business’ carbon output. We are the first large-scale independent furniture retailer in the UK to achieve this.
“Gaining this accreditation reflects a significant milestone and an investment of time, money and a company-wide effort in a whole range of initiatives over the last decade. These include store design, transport logistics, supply chain management, community tree planting activity and product innovation.
“Tackling climate change needs to be at the top of everyone’s agenda. That’s why a major part of our anniversary activity is focused on continuing to tackle the challenges the furniture industry faces regarding environmental impact. To do this, over the next 12 months we’re launching a number of further ambitious sustainability goals and initiatives”.
Barker and Stonehouse has worked with many of its British suppliers since the company was founded and British made furniture will remain a strong focus. The company is pledging to work with UK makers and manufacturers wherever it can. Conveying the value of buying British, due to the high quality of craftsmanship of the furniture made here, has long been part of Barker and Stonehouse’s ethos. Now actively communicating to customers the reduced journey time and lower carbon footprint associated with these products will be a key part of the story.
Community tree planting for carbon capture also has its place in the retailer’s plans. It will now be planting a tree for every piece of furniture delivered by its in-house fleet, which should translate into between 80,000 – 100,000 trees over the next 12 months.
It will do this via the reforestation charity, Trees 4 Trees, of which Barker and Stonehouse was a founding partner. AstraZeneca – responsible for the UK’s first COVID-19 vaccine – has recently partnered with Trees 4 Trees pledging to plant 10 million trees by 2025.
Electric delivery vehicles are also high on the priority list for the coming year with discussions underway with a UK supplier.