Retail Sector Sustainability Conundrum

Posted on in BrandBlab

My German Retail Blog contribution for 2019:

Clive WoodgerFounder, SCG London:

Clive Woodger, SCG (photo: SCG)

The retail sector faces a conundrum when it comes to sustainability. Retailers, brands and developers promoting their green credentials comes across as green window dressing – or worse, corporate virtue signalling, given that their prime activity is to encourage ever more consumerism.

In the same way that the aviation industry is starting to face the challenge of SOF (shame of flying), how will retail handle a rising trend of SOB (shame of buying)?

Counter-initiatives like ‘Green Friday’ have a long way to go to change current societal values, given Alibaba’s Black Friday astronomic sales figures. Retailers have to show that they care about the planet, despite the obvious contradiction of needing to sell more stuff people don’t really need.

Retail real estate has to accept that it is a major contributor to the planet’s carbon count and has a particularly difficult balancing act to give local communities, visitors, stakeholders and shareholders what they want.

Developers have to preach green technology and ‘place making’. They now need to create mixed-use venues for leisure, entertainment, workplace and residential with less ‘shopping’. They claim to be in an era of ‘partnership’, rather than just landlords collecting rent, but their basic business model cannot be changed unless their pension fund shareholders are happy to become philanthropists.

Ideally, there would be a new era of truly ‘sustainable centres’, recycling preloved and repurposed products and goods to justify their claim to be green. But there is no money in flea markets, charity shops or car boot sales, however popular they are with the public.

Appointing sustainability directors and promoting green principles is becoming standard for retail operations. Consumers are starting to demand real action to mitigate the inherent damage to the planet created by rampant retail. We are now told that people want experiences, not more stuff.

One sector that could help offline retail and centres is gaming and e-sport. This growing sector would seem to fit the bill in promoting global communities, appealing to younger demographics and to women.

Instead of being relegated to a basement, gaming and e-sport can now transform retail destinations by selling total engagement and shared experiences without having to flog tons of useless product to further clutter the environment.
The gaming and e-sport sector is massive. It is now worth more than worldwide film and music sales combined. Maybe this can help avoid future SOB accusations?

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