The Mindful Consumerism Dilemma for Retailers

As retailers, we all secretly want our customers to buy frivolously and repeatedly from us. We want to find the shopaholics who over buy and over-spend. After all, consumption drives commerce.

But what happens to those things that people buy and don’t want or need? That dress that they only wore once, the unwanted gifts that sit in drawers and the online orders that never get returned.

In 2020, as responsible independent retailers, we need to find a balance between helping people make more considered, better purchases, while still focusing on driving up our sales figures to stay in business.

Hmmm. So how do we do this when the 2 things so obviously contradict each other?

Step 1 in my opinion is to offer better products. You have a huge responsibility as a retailer that you affect what people ‘can’ buy. In basic form, if something isn’t in the shops, then customers can’t and won’t buy it. By taking that responsibility seriously as a retailer, you can create a set of buying rules that you will follow where possible when choosing products and suppliers to work with. Such as:-

  • Where were those products made?
  • What are they made from?
  • How were they made?
  • What manufacturing processes does the manufacturer abide by?

Look at the quality of products, no matter what end of the price market you are in, check reviews to see if they work properly or if they last.

Taking it one step further, I also suggest you think about striking a balance in your store between essentials and non-essentials. We have all seen stores full of pointless products, maybe quirky or just decorative things. Things that don’t serve any purpose are not exactly healthy for the planet or the consumer. They are great in small quantities but as a responsible retailer, they shouldn’t form a big percentage of what you sell.

Step 2 could be to look at your packaging. Most retailers don’t now offer plastic bags to consumers but how much plastic and packaging are you receiving from your suppliers? How much packaging are you using when sending out online orders? Reducing your usage and also re-using packaging where possible is a great first step. It is very hard to totally remove plastic from shipped materials as cardboard/paper only can increase the risk of products getting wet but consider how you can make better choices.

One great example is to ask manufacturers to reduce single poly bags and simple wrap your whole order in 1 bag or waterproof solution. Particularly if you always display without packaging then it’s not something you need.

Remember to communicate your efforts in reducing packaging to your customers. Making that commitment and communicating it will be really appreciated by customers and goes a long way to helping them choose your store over others who aren’t making such an effort.

I also believe as retailers we have a duty to help promote the positive efforts of the brands we choose to the customers. We are all sad when a wonderful local manufacturer of sustainable products has to close down due to not selling enough but sometimes just buying their product for your store isn’t enough. We have to help educate consumers to make better choices.

Try not to overwhelm yourself with the endless ways we ‘could’ be doing more, but take the time to focus some good habits with your purchasing and the rest will follow. Small changes do make a difference.

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