Life is still tough for retailers with more headlines of gloom and doom and countless “experts” bemoaning the demise of the retail industry. The delayed publication of the Sports Direct results makes for fascinating reading. It is the world according to Mike Ashley. He admits what most were saying at the time, that House of Fraser was a bad buy. It is a question of knowing the difference between price and value. To quote the man himself:

On a scale out of 5, with 1 being very bad and 5 being very good, House of Fraser is a 1, albeit we are trying very hard to turn the business around this will not be quick and it will not be easy.  [ ] if we had the gift of hindsight we might have made a different decision in August 2018.

In the 8 lines of comment given to the Republic of Ireland within the 44 page report, no mention is made of the future of the House of Fraser store in Dundrum.

Another piece of news, commented on negatively by some, is that Boohoo has bought Karen Millen and Coast’s on line operations out of administration. I see this as a good move for Boohoo as these brands don’t compete with their current offering and will bring them new customers. It looks like most of the bricks and mortar stores worldwide for both brands are likely to close in the next few months. Karen Millen, who bought some of Coast’s business, is currently owned by Icelandic bank Kaupthing.

A sustainable retail model

Both of these news items highlight what I have been writing about for a while, and thinking about for longer: that a new, sustainable retail model is needed. This new model must reflect the world as seen by new generations who are consumers both now and in the future. This world order is being reshaped by the views of people like Greta Thunberg and movements like Extinction Rebellion.

Not making the headlines are the retail disruptors who are shaking up the growth and the “more and more” consumption model. This includes the movement towards ethical and sustainable clothing, making better use of what we have, and repair and remodelling. All of which will help to reduce the huge carbon footprint of the clothing industry.

So what can retailers do?

There are some good things happening in some of the bigger retailers with Inditex probably leading the way. Their brands include Zara, Pull and Bear, Bershka and Massimo Duti, and they have committed that:

  • By 2025, 100% of the cotton, linen and polyester used by all 8 of its brands will be organic, sustainable or recycled.
  • By 2020, Inditex commits to fully eliminate the use of plastic bags, a milestone already attained at Zara, Zara Home, Massimo Dutti and Uterqüe.
  • By 2023, all single-use plastics will have been totally eliminated for customers’ sales.

Pablo Isla, Chairman and CEO, said at the AGM:

the culture of diversity, innovation and creativity that is shared by the entire Inditex team is driving the forward-looking values of sustainability and innovation.

Forbes recently reported that,
“H&M, despite being a pioneer in fast fashion, is taking ethical fashion seriously. In its home market, 17% of Swedes are eco-conscious consumers. H&M is committed to becoming 100% circular by 2030 with these goals: 100% usage of recycled and sustainable resources, store waste recycling, use of renewable energy and reduced CO2 emissions.”

Big and small retailers can make changes towards sustainability

There are three ways that retailers large and small can look to become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint.

  1. Your day to day operations
  2. Your products
  3. Your supply chain

1. Your day to day operations

Take a fresh look at everything you do and buy as part of your day to day operations. Here is a list that, while not exhaustive, is a start.

  • Your energy provider (can you buy energy from renewable resources?)
  • Packaging and carrier bags
  • Are you sorting your waste?
  • Can you reuse anything you would normally throw away?
  • Reduce or eliminate any single use plastic from your business (particularly in your kitchen/canteen)
  • Till system, can you offer e-mail receipts instead of paper? Paper free till system
  • Store your shop records electronically instead of bulky paper files. Back up to the cloud/ external hard drive.
  • Encourage your customers to bring their own bags/packaging/reusable cups and offer a discount

2. Your products

What you sell is obviously specific to your shop. Here are some sustainable considerations.

  • Are any of your products single use?
  • Could you stock a reusable replacement?
  • Research the trends in your product area, get ahead of the sustainability curve.
  • Take a good look at your competition and see what they are selling.
  • Can you set aside a small area and experiment with new sustainable products?
  • Make your sustainability journey part of your brand

3. Your Supply Chain

This is where you can make some big savings in your carbon footprint.

  • Where do your products come from?
  • How to they get to you, by air, sea or land?
  • Do you know this about all your products?
  • Can you source more locally?
  • Seek out local suppliers to replace imports
  • Buying in bulk is generally cheaper and saves on transport and packaging (only on good sellers)

This is just a taster of how you can become a responsible, sustainable retailer. I will be launching some new services soon around sustainability and one will be an environmental audit that will look at these three areas of your business and more. Please get in touch if you’d like to have a chat about it.

Greenwashing and how to avoid it

A last word on greenwashing. This makes your company or products seem more environmentally friendly than they really are.  As consumers become increasingly aware of the impact on the planet of what they buy, some companies are jumping on the sustainability bandwagon to sell more goods. This is not the point! A more holistic approach as outlined above will avoid greenwashing.

Prove your environmental credentials to your customer by being open about what you are doing. It is a journey and you’ll learn as the journey progresses. Being a responsible retailer becomes part of your brand and who you are. In the long term you will have a sustainable business, in every sense of the word, which is profitable as it meets the needs of your customers of the future without sacrificing the future of the planet.

© Retail Renewal 15/08/19

Retail Renewal offers practical and sustainable solutions for the ever-evolving challenges of running a retail business today. Find out more on If you’d like to get in touch with Retail Renewal about your retail or business project, please call Linda on 086 8146949. Let us help you to grow your business and your profits sustainably.

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