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EDITORIAL Green shoots of recovery will have to be truly green

Image: Adobe Stock

Image: Adobe Stock

As another week draws to a close, the changing shape of the retail industry is once again writ large. We all know that everything has changed, but it proving interesting to see just what those changes might look like.

To my mind there have been two great shifts in the retail landscape in 2020: a move online and a move to environmentally friendliness. Both of these shifts were of course already happening, but the speed with which we now find them as the norm has been breath-taking.

Of course, the two things are completely intertwined – as is are the solution for meeting these new demands. As research out this week from PFS and LiveArea shows, with people not going to stores, they have had pause for thought as to their own shopping habits and have come down very much in favour of wanting to reduce their impact on the environment – and they want the brands and retailers that they do business with to do the same.

And it isn’t just the kids that want this: a third of all shoppers are wanting their to be more eco-consciousness among retailers and brands – with nearly three quarters wanting less packaging. Amen to that.

There are of course a range of issues at play, but it is interesting that the move to online – and, I guess, the general air of fear that has surrounded it – has made people very specific about what they want and don’t want from retail.

For instance, over-purchase and returns, while still something that Gen Z admit they do too much of, is starting to wane. Could it be that not only do shoppers want the nebulous ‘green’ approach, but actually want to do something about it in very specific – and practical – ways?

But it comes with its own problems. The growth in ecommerce may have made shoppers rethink what they want retailers to do and it may have also shaped their own habits, but there is still the inescapable fact that more ecommerce means more delivery – and that is an environmental problem. It’s like the wind turbine conundrum: they generate clean power, but require a lot of dirty power to make them.

However, many retailers see the conundrum and are getting on board with solutions.  John Lewis has this week announced plans to trial electric delivery vans, is planning to be carbon neutral by 2050 and opened its own biomethane gas filling station for its lorries in the interim.

It is also driving the use of Zoom to give shoppers access to the kind of service they get in-store from its partners, but over the web. This, in its own way, is also a green strategy, making to more environmentally friendly to use stores from the comfort of one’s own home and commoditise delivery.

The approach is going to be vital to getting retail going again – but it is challenging. One thing is for sure, however, if you want green shoots of recovery they have to be green in every sense.

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