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Profitable Times Newsletter

"Green" Store Trends

When "Green" becomes the topic in retail conversations it seems to mean different and changing things to different people. "Green" can apply to several areas, but first, or eventually, the conversation usually turns to products, so, through some examples and comments, lets explore product trends first.

Some retail "Green" trends include:

  • Favoring products that require limited or easily recyclable packaging. Keeping in mind, however, even some "Green" products must be carefully packaged to prevent damage — and a different kind of waste.
  • Products made of or including reclaimed, biodegradable and renewable materials.
  • Offering fewer products made of leather.
  • Print on demand, and often drop shipping, for books and some two-dimensional products versus keeping stock on hand.
  • Apparel made from natural or organic fibers.
  • The selling and/or use of reusable shopping and tote bags.
  • Focus on reusable products like mugs, as an example, which are generally environmentally friendly.
  • Durability.
  • In my hometown and state, Portland, Oregon, there is a strong focus on eating locally grown produce and only reluctantly expanding outward to regional, national and international sources. Are as many soft, hard and food products as possible locally made to lower the impact of transportation?
  • Are tissue paper and wrapping and packing materials environmentally friendly, recycled, reusable?
  • Ancillary to the topic of "Green" are concerns about countries of origin, fair trade and organic certification.

Retail conversations about "Green" less frequently include related topics such as operations and fixture materials, so lets take a quick look at these aspects.

Green fixture concerns include:

  • Displays and fixtures built with salvaged materials or from some of the fastest growing commercial wood using certified sustainable harvesting programs.
  • General durability.
  • Types of glues and laminates used in the construction.
  • A part of many fixtures is lighting. The focus is on the kind of bulbs, such as compact fluorescent (CFL), which by the way, need to be disposed of properly because of their mercury content; LED (Light Emitting Diodes); fixtures (even some bulb sockets are made from recycled materials), and habits.
  • Store design that effectively, and safely from the product's standpoint, uses natural light. Many studies have documented increased sales in retail environments that include natural light... and generally happier customers.

Operations

  • Recycle and compact shipping and other waste.
  • Recycle batteries for those who buy new batteries in your store.
  • Don't print emails.
  • Print on both sides of a page.
  • Placing orders via the Internet rather than being mailed or faxed.
  • Convert documents to PDF (Portable Document Format) and store on a computer.
  • Careful choosing of cleaning products used on glass and floors.
  • Schedule travel and errands to minimize unnecessary driving.
  • Recycle office paper, purchase recycled office paper and supplies, use glasses and mugs instead of disposable cups.
  • If your store is closed but the surrounding neighborhood is active, show off the store by leaving some lights on using a circuit with a timer that turns them off later in the evening.
  • Turn off those electronics that you can overnight.
  • Because many electronics suck power even when off, use power strips to disconnect electronics when not in use.
  • Try to find new uses for old things.

Marketing/Merchandising

When a store is responsive to "Green" issues it is appropriate to promote the issue through public relations and marketing. This can be done not only to promote products and enhance your image, but, since most consumers want to do their part, also to spur others on through your example.

If your building is in compliance with any level (Certified, Silver, Gold, Platinum) of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability, let your customers know. As an aside, while the general interest in "Green" by women may be greater, there is a high degree of interest in the technical aspects of a LEED building among men, which could be a bridge to building a connection with male customers.

Some marketing ideas:

  • Identifying "Green" products with special signage.
  • Especially in the beginning when you may have few products, for greater impact merchandise "Green" products from a broad range of categories together. Signage may state, "In an effort to be environmentally attuned, we are moving toward including as many "Green" products as possible in our selection. The products in this section/on this shelf are the beginning of this effort." Maybe you can paint this section green.
  • Use pro-active and "Green" associated words and phrases like: Reduce. Reuse. Organic. Local. Natural. Fresh. Non-toxic. Earth friendly. Good for the environment.
  • Enhance the use of websites and emails to generate publicity.
  • Educate customers on some core elements such as end-of-life options (a catchy phrase focused on what impact the product and packaging will have on the environment when the product is no longer being used); embodied energy (quantity of energy required to manufacture and supply to the point of use); right-sizing, etc.
  • Inform customers, for example, that since conventional cotton production uses a disproportionate percentage of the world's chemical pesticides and fertilizers (approximately 24%) but only occupies 3% of farmland, your products are made from organic cotton, 100-percent chemically untreated cotton, or hemp

Be aware, as your store becomes more "Green", there may be growing pressure to become greener, which may then reflect negatively on those products that are not yet "Green".

 
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