144 | PLATE 2017 Conference Proceedings
Product Lifetimes And e Environment
2017 - Conference Proceedings
C. Bakker and R. Mugge (Eds.)
© 2017. Del University of Technology and
IOS Press. All rights reserved. is article is
published online with Open Access by IOS
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Delft University of Technology
8-10 November 2017
identity and success (Cox et al., 2013; Wieser, Tröger, &
Research into consumer satisfaction and expectations of
product lifetimes is an emerging eld of enquiry. While
product categories that include electrical and electronic
equipment (EEE) (CTA, 2014; Cooper, 2004; Echegaray,
2016; Knight et al., 2013; Oguchi et al., 2016; Tasaki,
Terazono, & Moriguchi, 2004; Wilhelm, Yankov, & Magee,
2011) and clothing (Langley, Durkacz, & Tanase, 2013a,
2013b) have been extensively studied, other products,
such as carpets and boilers, have rarely been evaluated
(Cox et al., 2013; Wieser et al., 2015).
is paper reports the ndings of the rst nationwide
survey of consumer satisfaction with current product
lifetimes, which was undertaken across eighteen product
categories and conducted in the UK in February 2017. e
paper outlines the formulation of the product categories,
the design of the consumer survey and describes the
data analysis undertaken. e research ndings are
summarised, with the degree of consumer satisfaction
with product lifetimes and the importance of reliability
and longevity in comparison to other purchasing factors
are examined. Finally, the role of consumers, businesses
and government in facilitating the choice of longer-lasting
Materially-rich lifestyles across the world exert ever-
increasing demands on the planet (Trentmann, 2016).
Global improvements in standards of living are driving
spiralling consumer demand for products (Wilk, 1998).
In the United Kingdom (UK), the design, production,
distribution, use and disposal of these products account
for a signicant proportion of energy and material
demand (Norman et al., 2016; Salvia et al., 2016). ese
products embody carbon (Allwood & Cullen, 2012), and
their decreasing lifetimes characterised by the ‘throwaway
society’ (Cooper, 2004, 2010b), represents a signicant
challenge to meeting carbon reduction targets (IPCC,
2014) and attaining a circular economy (Montalvo, Peck,
& Rietveld, 2016).
Encouraging consumers to purchase longer-lasting
products could abate the “churn” (Cox, Grith, Giorgi, &
King, 2013, 27) of consumer goods, and would minimise
environmental impacts (ERM, 2011). Previous research
has asserted that consumers are interested in how long
products last (ERM, 2011; Knight, King, Herren, & Cox,
2013). However, consumers have also shown limited
concern for the environmental impacts of discarded
products (Cox et al., 2013), while continually expecting
innovation and psychologically linking products to their
e extension of product lifetimes of consumer goods has the potential to encourage sustainable
consumption, reduce carbon emissions and facilitate a transition to a circular economy.
However, current understandings of consumer perspectives on product lifetimes are limited.
is paper presents the ndings of the rst national study of consumer satisfaction with product
lifetimes across an exhaustive range of consumer durables. e research was undertaken in
the United Kingdom where consumer satisfaction and purchasing factors were studied across
eighteen product categories. ese product categories were devised from academic and market
research undertaken at Nottingham Trent University. In total, 2,207 participants completed the
survey and the sample prole was similar to the United Kingdom’s population with respect to
age and gender. e results indicate that consumers appear generally satised with the lifetimes
of their products and suggest that eorts to extend product lifetimes should focus on developing
business and policy options. However, participants also emphasised that longevity, reliability
and guarantee length were important factors in their purchasing decisions. Consumer interest
in these factors could indicate that lifetime labelling and the promotion of longer guarantees
by manufacturers and retailers may oer pathways to reduce energy and material consumption
associated with short-lived products, facilitating movement towards a low carbon circular
Gnanapragasam A.(a), Cooper T.(a), Cole C.(a) and Oguchi M.(b)
a) Product Design, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, United Kingdom
b) National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba, Japan
PLATE 2017 Conference Proceedings | 145
Gnanapragasam A. et al. / PLATE (2017) 144-148
Likert items were used to assess consumer satisfaction
with product lifetimes. A Likert scale (ranging from
‘very dissatised’ to ‘very satised’) was utilised to assess
consumer lifetime satisfaction with the eighteen product
categories. As each of the product categories encompassed
a range of products, it was not possible for participants
to estimate lifetime expectations in years. A Likert-type
scale (ranging from ‘not at all important’ to ‘extremely
important’) was used to gauge the level of importance that
participants assigned to the following purchasing factors:
Appearance, brand, guarantee length, longevity, price and
reliability. e importance of reliability as a purchasing
factor was studied for bicycles, cars, electronic goods,
jewellery, clocks and watches, large kitchen appliances,
power tools for the home and garden, small household
appliances, and space heating and cooling products
because, unlike other categories, these products contain
complex electrical, electronic or mechanical parts.
As suggested by Bryman (2008) and Robson (2011),
extensive pilot testing was undertaken with participants
from dierent backgrounds to ensure the questionnaire
was readily understood. Participant recruitment was
conducted by a market research company (JRA Research)
who recruited from an opt-in consumer panel to meet age
and gender quotas derived from the UK population. e
sample characteristics deviated from the UK population
by no more than 3.58% for gender and 5.35% for age
(see Tables 2 and 3 in the appendix). e data presented
in this paper is unweighted, as with the exception of
one characteristic (participants aged 18-24), the sample
characteristics remained within 5% of the UK population,
which is an acceptable standard in the discipline of market
research (Sarstedt & Mooi, 2011). In addition, weighting
has not been implemented by recent studies into consumer
expectations of product lifetimes (Hennies & Stamminger,
2016; Wieser et al., 2015).
products is examined, and the contribution they can make
to reducing the environmental impacts of products and
achieving a circular economy is explored.
An evaluation of the United Nations’ Statistics Division’s
(UNSD, 1999) Classication of Individual Consumption
According to Purpose (COICOP) and Mintel Academic
market research database (e.g. Carroll, 2017) identied
over 400 products that could be classied as durable
goods. Durable goods are dened as products “that may
be used repeatedly or continuously over a period of
more than a year” (UN, EC, OECD, IMF & World Bank,
2009, p. 184). Owing to time and cost constraints, it was
not considered feasible to conduct a national survey
of consumer satisfaction with product lifetimes at the
product level. Consequently, a product categorisation
scheme was developed using COICOP, Mintel reports
and previous consumer studies of product lifetimes (e.g.
Cooper, 2004; Cox et al., 2013; Wieser et al., 2015) (see
Gnanapragasam, Oguchi, Cole, & Cooper, 2017, this
volume). ese eighteen product categories were designed
to be representative of the entire range of consumer
durables, thus achieving a comprehensive consumer
survey (Dillman, Smyth, & Christian, 2014).
An online survey was designed to assess consumer
satisfaction with product lifetimes across these eighteen
categories. e questionnaire included items on
purchasing factors and satisfaction with product lifetimes
(e.g. Knight et al., 2013) (see Figure 2 in the appendix).
In addition, demographic information, such as gender
and age, was also collected. Each participant answered
questions on up to nine of the eighteen product categories
to minimise potential survey fatigue and non-response
(Dillman et al., 2014).
Figure 1. Consumer satisfaction with product categories.
146 | PLATE 2017 Conference Proceedings
Gnanapragasam A. et al. / PLATE (2017) 144-148
of respondents indicating that they were ‘dissatised’
was small household appliances (5%). In contrast, the
lowest proportion of respondents indicated that they were
‘dissatised’ with both power tools and small tools (1%).
Very few respondents stated they were ‘very dissatised’
with product lifetimes: 2% recorded that they were ‘very
dissatised’ with the lifetimes of footwear, large kitchen
appliances, cars and sports equipment. Across all other
product categories, only 1% of respondents were ‘very
e median values for purchasing factors were calculated
across the eighteen product categories to determine their
relative importance (Table 1). e results illustrate that
reliability was an ‘extremely important’ purchasing factor
in the categories in which it was studied. Longevity was
‘extremely important’ for furniture, oor coverings,
large kitchen appliances, power tools, cars, electronic
goods, and space heating and cooling products. For the
remaining eleven categories, longevity was considered
to be ‘very important’. Price was identied as ‘very
important’ for all product categories apart from cars, for
which it was ‘extremely important’. Guarantee length was
considered ‘very important’ for eleven product categories
and ‘moderately important’ for seven product categories.
Brand was identied as ‘moderately important’ for all
categories with the exception of cars and electronic goods,
for which it was ‘very important’. Finally, the results for
appearance show the most variability across the product
categories. For clothing, furniture, oor coverings,
household textiles, kitchenware and jewellery, it was
identied as ‘extremely important’. For the remaining
twelve product categories, appearance was considered
‘very important’ for six and ‘moderately important’ for the
is study provides the rst example of a national survey
of consumer satisfaction with product lifetimes across
e data for levels of satisfaction and purchasing factors
were prepared for analysis by excluding responses where
participants had stated that they could not answer the
question. e ndings were tabulated a compound
percentage bar chart was produced to facilitate visual
comparison of consumer satisfaction data across the
eighteen product categories. Purchasing factors were
assigned a numerical value (i.e. from 1 for ‘not at all
important’ to 5 for ‘extremely important’) and the median
scores were calculated.
In total, 2,207 participants completed the consumer
survey. Response rates for each product category ranged
between 635 (for musical instruments) to 1,212 (for space
heating and cooling products).
Figure 1 depicts levels of satisfaction with lifetimes across
eighteen product categories. Overall, the majority of
the respondents in this study indicated that they were
satised with the lifetimes of their durable goods. When
‘very satised’ and ‘satised’ were aggregated, all product
categories illustrated high satisfaction levels, ranging from
77% satisfaction for toys and games to 85% satisfaction
for furniture. In contrast, only a small proportion of
respondents indicated that they were ‘dissatised’ or ‘very
dissatised’ with product lifetimes. Aggregating these
responses, participants who reported dissatisfaction with
product lifetimes ranged from 2% for small tools and
ttings to 6% for both footwear and small household
e product category with the highest proportion of
respondents who were ‘very satised’ was cars (37%),
followed by musical instruments (34%). In contrast, the
product category which showed the lowest proportion
of respondents who were ‘very satised’ was clothing
(21%). e product category with the highest proportion
Appearance Brand Price
Bicycles Very Moderately Very Very Very Extremely
Cars Very Very Very Extremely Extremely Extremely
Clothing Extremely Moderately Moderately Very Very
Electronic goods Moderately Very Very Extremely Very Extremely
Floor coverings Extremely Moderately Very Extremely Very
Footwear Very Moderately Moderately Very Very
Furniture Extremely Moderately Very Extremely Very
Household textiles Extremely Moderately Moderately Very Very
Jewellery, clocks and watches Extremely Moderately Very Very Very Extremely
Kitchenware Extremely Moderately Moderately Very Very
Large kitchen appliances Very Moderately Very Extremely Very Extremely
Musical instruments Very Moderately Very Very Very
Power tools for the home and garden Moderately Moderately Very Extremely Very Extremely
Small household appliances Moderately Moderately Very Very Very Extremely
Moderately Moderately Moderately Very Very
Space heating and cooling products Moderately Moderately Very Extremely Very Extremely
Sports equipment Very Moderately Moderately Very Very
Toys and games Moderately Moderately Moderately Very Very
Table 1. Importance of purchasing factors.
PLATE 2017 Conference Proceedings | 147
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product categories (Table 1). Previously, it has been
suggested that product lifetime information should
be clearly communicated to consumers so that they
can make informed purchasing decisions (Cooper &
Christer, 2010; Knight et al., 2013; Montalvo et al., 2016).
Strategies such as lifetime labelling have been positively
received by consumers across a range of products
(SIRCOME, University of South Brittany, & University
of South Bohemia, 2016). Lifetime labelling could
enable consumers to consider information on product
lifetimes into account when making purchasing decisions.
Additionally, consumers considered guarantee length to
be a ‘very important’ purchasing factor for the majority
of product categories. is indicates that the introduction
and eective communication of longer lifetime guarantees
by manufacturers and retailers may entice consumers to
purchase longer-lasting products (Cooper & Christer,
2010; Knight et al., 2013). In summary, both lifetime
labelling and the provision of longer guarantees could
encourage greater uptake of longer-lasting products,
helping to slow and reduce material demand and enact the
circular economy at the product level (Bakker et al., 2014).
is paper reported the ndings of the rst national study
of consumer satisfaction with product lifetimes across the
entire range of consumer durables. e study found that
overall, UK participants appear satised with the lifetimes
of their durable goods. It also revealed that consumers
consider reliability, longevity and guarantee length
to be comparatively important factors when making
purchasing decisions. While it appears that consumers
may be satised with arguably declining product lifetimes
(Gnanapragasam et al., 2017, this volume), the importance
consumers place on longevity, durability and guarantee
length may foster opportunities for the development of
lifetime labelling and the provision of longer guarantees
for durable goods. e ndings of this study indicate
that government, manufacturers and retailers may be
best-positioned to encourage the uptake of longer-lasting
products, reducing consumption (Cooper, 2005), driving
eorts towards a circular economy (Montalvo et al., 2016)
and enabling carbon emissions reduction targets to be met
(Salvia et al., 2016).
is project was nancially supported by the UK’s
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s
Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products
(grant reference EP/N022645/1). e authors would
like to thank Dr Angela Roberts for providing detailed
comments on dras of this paper.
the complete range of durable goods. Responses were
received from 2,207 individuals across the UK and the
sample characteristics broadly match that of the UK
population aged 18 and above (ONS, 2016) (see Tables 2
and 3 in the appendix). e similarity of this sample to the
UK population indicates that this study is representative,
this follows previous research conducted by Skelton and
Allwood (2017) and Wieser et al. (2015). Additionally,
the response rates in each product category for this
research compare favourably to those in recent research
into consumer expectations of product lifetimes (e.g.
Hennies & Stamminger, 2016; Wieser et al., 2015) and
are comparable to those achieved in a recent study of
regretted consumption (Skelton & Allwood, 2017).
Consumer levels of satisfaction were found to be uniformly
high across the eighteen product categories under
investigation. ese ndings contrast with that of Cooper
and Mayers (2000) in which almost 45% of participants
asserted that most EEE did not last as long as they would
like it to. e ndings of this research were similar to that
of a recent study conducted on EEE in the UK by Knight
et al. (2013) which found the majority of participants to
be mostly satised with how long their products lasted.
is may indicate that there has been a temporal trend
of increasing satisfaction with product lifetimes which
parallels the decline in consumer expectations of product
lifetimes in the UK (Gnanapragasam et al., 2017, this
If most consumers are generally satised with product
lifetimes, as this study would indicate, then future
eorts towards “slowing resource loops” (Bakker, Wang,
Huisman, & den Hollander, 2014, p. 309) and achieving
a circular economy through the proliferation of longer
lasting products should, perhaps, focus on the business
case (e.g. Bocken, Short, Rana, & Evans, 2014), public
policy (Cooper, 2010a; Ervine, 2010) and environmental
arguments (ERM, 2011; Norman et al., 2016), instead
of consumer concern. Additional qualitative research
could serve to deepen our understanding of consumer
satisfaction with current product lifetimes, perhaps
deciphering why today’s consumers are satised with
lifetimes of products even while some are, arguably, in
While dissatisfaction with product lifetimes was
not evident, this study found that consumers placed
comparatively greater importance on reliability and
longevity in comparison to the other four purchasing
factors surveyed, including price, across all eighteen
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A. In general, how important are the following when you are buying
a) How the product looks, b) brand, c) How long the product will last, d)
How reliable the product will be, e) Length of guarantee provided, f) price.
1 Not at all important, 2 slightly important, 3 moderately important, 4 ver y
important, 5 extremely important, 6 do not know/ cannot say.
your [product category] lasted?
Figure 2. Survey questions.
Female 51.26 47.68
Male 48.74 52.32
18 – 24 11.45 16.80
25 – 44 33.50 28.84
45 – 64 32.43 36.24
65 – 74 12.35 12.40
75+ 10.27 5.72