There are many examples, from politics to business, where those who were at the forefront of driving change failed to benefit from the arrival of those changes.
New retailers, born from the ambition to create a world of sustainable shoppers and ethical businesses, have stood out from the traditional crowd of retail alternatives. Namely the exploitative business of recent decades.
But as sentiment and sales swing to more ethical choices, this growing market is nonetheless becoming crowded with attractive ethical competition from other new brands, as well as established retailers who now see themselves as part of the sustainable solution, and no longer the problem.
It is not beyond the realms of hope and possibility that ethical retailers selling sustainable products, manned by inclusive and diverse workforces, will become the mainstream. Sustainable problem solvers outweighing unsustainable problem creators.
I will leave the arguments around individual business’s sustainability claims for a different day. The fact remains that as we enter 2023, the customer is not short of choice, either online or offline, when it comes to buying ethically and sustainably.
The reality is that for many new brands “being worthy” will no longer be enough to guarantee patronage and sales. Sustainable & ethical retailers will need to adopt many traditional best practice retail disciplines to make themselves operationally efficient, and attractive as price/value propositions.
This is not to say that sustainable and ethical values need to be compromised. Indeed, these same values are being rapidly adopted by many traditional retailers who now recognise and appreciate that being worthy, and genuinely worthy, is an essential ingredient to be commercially successful in the 2020s.
But whilst traditional commercial best practice retailers are adapting and evolving to deliver more sustainable ends, then ethical must embrace and exhibit commercial best practice.
Sustainable products need to be organised and sourced within a commercial assortment structure plan. Product merchandise needs to carry the attributes that appeal to customers, price architectures need to be created that offer competitive value for money.
Supply chains whilst being local, efficient, and non-polluting need to ensure that products and customers are brought together within omnichannel environments. Technologies must be employed to ensure that both retailers and customers know exactly where individual products are, at any time.
Shop environments need to be designed as carbon neutral spaces, but also exciting and engaging customer experiences where the frictions of shopping are neutralised by expert, best practice service, events and promotions.
Commercial & ethical are not mutually exclusive. That is the beauty of the retail world we aspire to. Whilst producing and selling less in more ethical and sustainable ways, we still want retail businesses to make money, to employ, and to invest in the local and global worlds they operate in.
The exploiters must learn from the ethical and sustainable. The inefficient and inexperienced must learn from the commercial and established.
The world of successful sustainable retailing in 2023 must be a 2-way street.
Does being part of a growing solution to unethical and unsustainable retailing necessarily entail a problem in terms of individual commercial success and survival?
Not if established best practice is employed to make good people into great retailers!
In the meantime…
Fast Fashion and sustainable supply-chains are featured in the new book – ‘Meaning in the Retail Madness – How to be an Essential Retailer’
If you’d like to read my book for many more retailer insights and best practice. And to here my thoughts on retail’s future, then that’s an excellent idea.
I hope that the sections on how to flourish in the ‘The life and times of the Essential Retailer’ how to evolve ‘Agile Organisations’ and excel in ‘Astute Strategies’ may be a source of inspiration and guidance. You will also find 70 action plans and 90 retail best practice insights that may help you to assess your current weaknesses and opportunities.
Enjoy your read.