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Finding Footfall: Retailers are making big strides in sustainability and environmental support

Our new regular column shining a light on retail trends looks at the progress being made in promoting sustainability and supporting the environment.

Consumers care more about sustainability now than ever before, and it’s clear retailers are taking notice. In fact, we’ve seen them make amazing progress in providing more environmentally conscious options, and they’re often cheaper too.

Despite the obstacles posed by Covid-19, like the banning of reusable bags and the temporary closure of refill shops, it’s wonderful to see these initiatives making a solid comeback. And timing couldn’t have been better given the ongoing cost of living crisis.

So what are retailers doing exactly? Well, it’s not just about carrying the normal eco-friendly products or offering recycling programs; retailers are innovating and making big changes to reduce their environmental impact. No corner of the retail landscape has been spared. Whether you’re shopping at a supermarket, an independent store, a garden centre or online – sustainability is a top priority.

Footfall2Starting with fashion, which for a long time was criticised for its excessive use of packaging, unsustainable production methods, and rampant over-production, it is today reinventing itself as a leader in environmental sustainability. Some retailers reward their customers with discounts for bringing in old clothing for recycling or donating, and Primark and Urban Outfitters are championing the use of vintage. Vinted, a second-hand online marketplace, continues to soar in popularity, and with items from classic licensed brands like Mickey Mouse, Barbie and Coca-Cola showing impressive resale value, we recommend hanging on to your awards event goody bags – who knows what they will be worth in 20 years!

On to food, grocery stores are rescuing produce that would otherwise be headed for the bin – and it’s an incredible success. Consumers can’t get enough of their ‘wonky’ veg boxes, which offer amazing value – they’re usually sold out within minutes. Plus there are plenty of other companies supporting this effort: OddBox delivery, Squished… with a mission to save fruit from going to waste? Count us in!

Down a different aisle of the supermarket, you’ll find one of our favourite products at the moment – eco laundry detergent sheets. They easily dissolve in the washing machine and are made of natural ingredients. Plus, they come packed without any plastic waste, so you can feel good about making a sustainable choice. We also love antibacterial spray tablets which dissolve in water to create a cleaning solution that’s tough on bacteria but gentle on the planet.

Footfall1With packaging reduced, what about how purchases are transported home? Retailers have promoted the use of reusable bags for many years, but recently, the trend has picked up momentum. Bags for Life is a particular favourite, offering durable bags that can be used again and again. And with designers such as Anya Hindmarch and Emma Bridgewater creating stylish storage for your weekly food shop, we have no excuse not to embrace this option. Brand licensing has been behind many amazing collaborations to make Bags for Life desirable to every demographic and we expect this trend to continue.

Another way retailers are encouraging customers to make sustainable choices is through financial incentives and informative content. Many food retailers offer discounts for bringing reusable bags or cups, or choosing environmentally friendly options, and garden centre group Blue Diamond sends emails to their database with ideas such as how to bring more bees in to the garden. It also has a lovely partnership with the National Trust where sales revenue from its products is invested back into the countryside.

Footfall3Is there a downside? Well, the high environmental standards that supermarkets have set themselves are proving difficult for some licensed brands to meet. One solution to this is to collaborate via a DTR model so that your products are made by the retailer in-house. This will ensure you get to promote your brand and their own sustainable and environmental policies remain a top priority. Iceland is a champion of this approach.

Retailers are making enormous strides in promoting sustainability and supporting the environment. From plastic free products to financial incentives to customers, retailers have fully embraced the green revolution. Consumer brands, brand licensing agents and clothing manufacturers need to be more mindful of their environmental impact to align with the retailers’ sustainability goals. Let’s strive to support these initiatives and promote sustainability everywhere we can.

Bethan Garton is chief commercial officer of True Purpose Enterprises, the parent company of brand licensing agency The Point.1888, retail specialist Spotlight.1888 and marketing agency Story.1888.

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