Sustainability & Stores: Realistic Tips You Can Begin Applying Today

Socially conscious customers make up a growing percentage of consumers who are – quite simply – ones retailers should not ignore. It’s important for merchants to understand and support this consumer audience – ultimately aiming to also support sustainability efforts along the way. To help retailers accomplish this, consider the below.

Identify Small In-Store Strategies That Help Reduce Carbon Footprints

Sustainability isn’t only about a large scale merchandising makeover to offer sustainable items or making substantial donations to causes that promote sustainability. This is great to do, but also consider the small ways sustainability encompasses the actions of retailers small and enterprise alike.

More specifically, look at the stores. Stores are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of introducing, maintaining and even highlighting the operational efforts that support sustainability and environmentally positive actions. Among the ways retailers are doing this include:

  • Introduce LED lighting whenever natural lighting is not an option. LED is the best option for retailers to help reduce their carbon footprint since they use approximately 15 times less electricity than halogen lighting and resist breakage more so than comparative light bulbs. Plus, LED lighting has a longer life span. Therefore over time LEDs save retailer’s dollars as well.
  • Unplug devices that are not being used, including lamps, phone chargers, and computers to support environmentally friendly actions while also helping to reduce electricity bills. For appliances that offer power save modes, businesses can introduce turning these on when not in use as one of their sustainable best practices.
Unless you do it on time, in full, at every site, you are not executing at all
  • Recycle and reuse whenever possible to create less waste while also introducing longevity to necessary resources. Whether it’s paper, print cartridges or aluminum cans, there are countless items used daily that employers can recycle. Get customers in on the recycling action by offering sorting bins for their use. Bonus: the sorting bins are a subtle way to advertise recycling efforts without saying anything. If the local community does not support these same efforts, identify a facility that does and go the extra mile to personally take the waste there for recycling.
  • Aim to reduce waste whenever possible. QSRs can consider reducing waste by replacing single-use tableware with washable for dine-in customers. Offer a discount to customers who bring in their own drinkware/containers.
  • Eliminate paper and plastic. With entire countries banning certain single use plastics, see what stores can eliminate (straws, cutlery, bags, hangers, etc). For backend processes, look into what paper-based processes can be mitigated/eliminated in favor of more streamlined SaaS solution. A good place to start? Eliminate paper-based retail audits in favor of smart checklists.
  • Use sustainable/recycled furniture and fixtures in stores. When selecting fixtures for your retail store, take a cue from Puma who utilizes fixtures made from recycled wood and low VOC organic compound paint for the store walls.

In addition to the above suggestions, retailers should look within their own communities to help engage in sustainable friendly actions on a more local level. Participating – or even creating and hosting – a trash clean-up day at a local park, planting trees in your community, supporting an eco-swap event between neighbors or dedicating a day to “no trash” are all ways retailers can help show their love to the local environment.

An added perk? These experiences can bring increased visibility to your brand while helping to capture the attention of socially conscious consumers.

Incorporate Inventory & Packaging That Supports Sustainability

Ready to do more for sustainability? Retailers can examine their product offerings to see where they can incorporate sustainable inventory into their collective product assortment. Some retailers may sell inventory made from sustainable fabrics that include hemp, bamboo fiber or organic cotton, others might offer inventory that has been recycled or made from reclaimed materials such as old barn wood. Foodservice retailers can look at their suppliers and switch to local networks or suppliers who use less packaging.

With so many vendors choosing to create products supporting sustainability, there is no shortage of inventory options to include within your unique store assortment. From home goods to apparel to children’s toys and more, retailers can identify what makes sense for their unique customers by narrowing in on vendors that align with the particular focus of their socially conscious customers.

Many trade shows that cater to retailers, such as NY NOW, highlight these vendors to make it that much easier for retailers to identify products that would make sense for their stores.

Once purchased and planned for store delivery, retailers should proactively position their sustainable inventory to let their customers know about their sustainability efforts. Ways to do this include:

  • Creating digital graphics that identify how your store supports sustainable efforts, then sharing these via social media and email marketing.
  • Labeling inventory for sale with a special tag or other highlighted way that alerts customers to how that inventory is socially responsible.
  • Hosting in-store and online events that focus on sustainable inventory and offer promotions to help encourage sales.

The value of sustainability in marketing, operations and inventory alike is becoming increasingly important for businesses to consider. There is no time better than now to make sure your store is a part of these actions.

Remember,  a reported 87% of Americans state they would purchase products from businesses that advocate for social and environmental responsibility.  76% say they would boycott businesses who behave in ways contrary to this. As a retailer, don’t risk losing customers and sales when you can easily incorporate sustainable efforts into your business by following the tips above.

About the author:

RM-NLReyhle_Headshot_2019 (1)

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the Founder of RetailMinded and a published author. She is a frequent contributor to The Today Show, Forbes, and countless B2B publications. Reyhle is the Spokesperson for American Express’s Small Business Saturday and writes regularly as a retail thought leader for various industry resources and is recognized as a Top 10 retail thought leaders from Vend and a retail “futurist” for IBM. Finally, Reyhle is also the Co-Founder of the Independent Retailer Conference.

Leave a Reply