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September 24, 2020

Labelling Furniture: advice for furniture makers in the UK

By: Peter Gregory

Furniture labelling is a tricky area, especially when you’re a startup!

In the UK, furniture makers are legally required to add fire safety labels. What’s more, most furniture shops won’t even consider stocking a product without a swing ticket. There are other types of furniture label that, although not strictly necessary, can make a massive difference to your business over the long term.

So what furniture labels are explicitly required in the UK, and what does a ‘good’ furniture labelling strategy look like? At GB Labels, we’ve been supporting furniture manufacturers for over two decades, so we can tell you everything you need to know! 

Types of Furniture Label

There are 4 main types of furniture label. Each one serves a different purpose, and while the fire safety label is the only label that’s required by law, we recommend adding all four to your furniture. Just click on any of the links below to learn more:

Fire Safety Labels

The Fire Safety Label is, by far, the most important type of furniture label. In the UK, you can’t sell furniture without a fire safety label. A fire safety label proves you have tested all of the materials in the product for flammability (see footnote 1).

MATCH SAFE SWING TAG

The ‘match safe’ label is normally a swing ticket. You might have seen the match safe on furniture in showrooms and shop window displays. These square or triangular ‘match safe’ labels are often printed on card and attached with a kimble tag. They usually look something like this:

Image credit: Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council

PERMANENT FIRE SAFETY LABEL

The “CARELESSNESS CAUSES FIRE” label is meant to stay attached to the furniture item at all times, from the moment it leaves the factory to the moment it is finally recycled or destroyed. A permanent fire safety label is usually a polyester satin woven label. It can be stitched into the seam of a sofa, border-stitched onto the underside of an upholstered chair or glued directly to a hard surface. All that matters is that you can find it easily if you’re looking for it, and that it’s really hard to separate from the product. 

These handy graphics give a good breakdown of what you need to show on a permanent fire safety label. There are two examples here, but you’ll see that the contents of both versions are very similar:

Image credit: Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council

If your fire safety label does come off, then your furniture can never be resold or donated (see footnote 2). You can’t even give it to a landlord who rents furnished properties (see footnote 3). If the fire safety label comes off, it has to go to the dump. This is a massive waste, and it’s completely avoidable. 

To make sure your fire label stays on, you should pick a discreet out-of-sight location. Give the owner no good reason to cut it off! Good places for fire safety furniture labels are the backing fabric underneath removable cushions, side pillars or legs that are normally covered by slipcovers and the underside of light furniture items. 

Swing Tickets

Swing tickets aren’t just for fashion retailers — they’re a vital part of the sales process in the furniture trade, too. Most high street and independent furniture shops will expect furniture manufacturers to include a swing tag on every item.  

A good swing tag should leave enough room for the retailer’s pricing sticker, and it should be easy for a shopper to pick up and read. This is especially important in the furniture industry. Furniture is heavy, and it’s not hung on eye-level racks like clothes are. Your swing tag needs to be positioned at a comfortable reading height, with a cord long enough for the buyer to read when they’re sitting on or at the product. These swing tags should also have reinforced eyelets so that the label doesn’t rip if someone pulls it too enthusiastically. 

Brand Labels 

You should always, always label your furniture with your own brand! You’d be amazed at how many furniture manufacturers overlook this simple step.

There are two very simple reasons for labelling your own furniture with your own logo:

  • You’ve done great work! Your buyers should feel just as confident in the product as you do! A “maker’s mark” label reassures your buyer that the furniture is of a high standard. You’re standing behind what you sell. 
  • Anyone who uses a piece of your furniture today is a potential customer tomorrow. When an owner, their friend or a family member comes into contact with your furniture, they should be able to find your details quickly and easily so that they can look you up in future.

Our advice is to keep your branding labels small and simple. Consider keeping the colour palette fairly muted and neutral. You don’t want bright neon labels clashing with a brown leather sofa, for instance. A simple two- to four-colour damask woven loop fold or border label would be ideal in most cases. Take a look at our guide to label folds for more ideas. 

Image Credit: IKEA UK 

Care Labels

Your customers want to know how to keep their furniture looking its best for as long as possible. If you’ve got removable covers, if you’ve used certain woods or if you’ve got genuine leather elements in your furniture, then you should think about adding a care label so that your buyers know what to do.

Care labels are great for customer service, but they make good business sense, too. By being up-front about how to look after a piece of furniture, your business can reduce costly returns and protect itself against opportunistic customers. 

Care labels are often similar in style to a garment wash care label (learn all about these here), but you can get creative with silicon and embroidered alternatives — the choice is yours. If you’d like some ideas just get in touch with us!

Start with a Labelling Strategy

There’s a tendency, when dealing with any sort of ‘legal requirement’, to only do the minimum and to forget to be creative. Furniture is such an important part of so many people’s lives. You owe it to your customer, to the environment, and to your brand, to plan your furniture labelling strategy properly. 

Fifteen minutes is all it takes. Sit down with a pen and paper and work out a labelling strategy today. You could reap the benefits for decades to come!

As always, if you have any questions, please please give us a ring. We’re always happy to help.

Thanks for reading!

– Pete

Footnotes / Learn More…

Footnote 1:

For the exact rules on fire safety labelling, take a look at section 7 of The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1988/1324/schedule/7/made

Footnote 2:

The British Heart Foundation runs second-hand furniture shops across the UK. Their policy is that “We can only accept upholstered or leather items if there is a … fire label sewn in, which refers to BS7177 – which is the British safety specification for resistance to ignition of mattresses, divans and bed bases.” See the link below for more information:

https://www.bhf.org.uk/shop/donating-goods/book-furniture-collection-near-me/fire-labels

Footnote 3:

A landlord cannot furnish a house with furniture made after the 1950s unless the furniture has a fire safety label attached. For a full overview of a landlord’s fire safety responsibilities, visit https://www.nrla.org.uk/resources/managing-your-tenancy/fire-safety-overview 

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