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Selfridges introduces online rentals and in-store repairs as it promises to transform the way it sells

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Selfridges is to introduce online rentals and in-store repairs as it transforms the way that it sells, and that its customers shop. From today it’s introducing a new Project Earth environmental model that it says will change the business for good. 

The department store, ranked Top150 in RXUK Top500 research, says that a new approach to sustainability is set to reinvigorate the way it sells over coming years. 

“Our customers have changed their mindset,” says Anne Pitcher, group managing director at Selfridges. “Customers were telling us how important sustainability was to them. Then the pandemic happened – and the total disruption of our lives. It’s a moment of real change. Our customers have changed their mindset. They have adopted different behaviours, some forced, but they have completely new demands and expectations from retail businesses. This is going to be a very tough year and we have to change the way we do business. We have to have new conversations.”

She added: “Now feels the right time to do this. The conversation at products, materials and the way we operate has become so important to our customers. Now is the right time to do this.”

The new approach will focus on three core areas: materials, models and mindsets. By 2025, the retailer will only stock goods made from materials that meet new product standards, from down and palm oil to wood, and paper. New business models will include repair, reselling – through a ReSellfridges own brand resale model to launch in September – refilling and renting items. When it comes to rental, shoppers will be able to rent pieces from more than 40 brands, either in-store or online, for four, eight, 10 or 20 days. A repairs concierge who will help to give products a second life, with consultations held either in-store or virtually, online. 

The third pillar, mindsets, is about changing the way that its teams approach making and selling items – with circular design principles at their core – and . It is working with Prada on a Prada Re-Nylon project to sell products made from recycled ocean plastics – and many brands, says Daniella Vega, group director of sustainability at Selfridges, will now only work with retailers that are committed to these ways of working. 

Vega says Project Earth is “all encompassing” for the business. “It’s changing the way we shop and do business,” she said. “Our sustainability plan isn’t separate – it’s the business plan, and it’s integrated with the five-year plan. We’re really shifting the way we work and do business.”

Selfridges says its new approach takes forward ideas that it has already been working with for some time. It previously ran Project Ocean, in 2011 and had planned to launch Project Earth in April but delayed until now as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, it says it is even more the right time to take action. 

Pitcher says that customer surveys show that the people who buy from Selfridges are now concerned about environmental issues – which are now a crucial part of doing business. Research carried out in 2019 found that 85% of customers are more concerned about climate change and sustainability than they were a year earlier. One in three were concerned about climate change, and one in four about ocean plastics. 

“Customers will shop with businesses they trust, feel are their friends, and they can relate to,” she said. “It’s about businesses that choose doing the right thing over making money and businesses that are transparent in the way they do business. We’ve all changed and people will care not only about how you do business but how you place people at planet at the heart of thinking.”

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