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A sustainable Christmas is coming to town

We are all reminded that the holiday season is approaching with a flurry of Christmas adverts encouraging us all to spend, yet retailers are anticipating a less than merry Christmas for their sales. According to Deloitte, only 62% of retailers expect to see higher sales this Christmas compared to a more positive 80% last year, this follows a year-long struggle of negative sales and many retailers falling into administration.

However, it is not all doom and gloom; some festive goodwill is creeping into the retail landscape as consumers invest more of their money into making Christmas 2019 the most sustainable Christmas yet. So far, we are seeing consumers buy recyclable wrapping paper, rent Christmas trees and even rethink sending Christmas cards.

In fact, this shift in consumer attitudes towards sustainable retail is driving growth in the second-hand apparel market. Consider this: the apparel resale market is growing 21x faster than the primary market. This trend means people are likely to wake up to a used gift under the tree this year. Some of the more popular items will include designer purses and handbags, footwear, women’s trendy clothing and brand-name fine watches.

This shift in consumer behaviour is putting pressure on retailers to adopt sustainable business practices and offer sustainable options for gifts. Retailers are beginning to understand that purchasing decisions are now being driven more than ever by environmentally conscious attitudes. For example, John Lewis this year made a commitment to meet this market demand by removing plastic toys from its Christmas crackers and increasing its range of own-brand wooden toys from 105 products to 120 in a year, ready for Christmas 2019.

With Christmas 2019 sales looking bleak, retailers can do more to tap into the sustainable shopping market to boost their sales at a time of year which should be the most lucrative. For example, like John Lewis, offering more sustainable products and gifts made from sustainable materials can be an effective way to appeal to shoppers who are looking for more ethical gifts to put under the tree.

Similarly, shoppers are also looking to shop at retailers who practice what they preach. Offering more sustainable products is one effort, but consumers now expect retailers to integrate sustainable business into the fabric of their supply chain management strategy. In the past, retailers have come under the firing line from consumers when it has been revealed that they were sending masses of products to landfill.

For example, Burberry made significant changes after consumers went into an uproar when it was discovered they destroyed $40m worth of stock in a single year. Now, the company has its own fashion line made of recycled material and has goals to operate entirely on renewable energy to attain customer loyalty and purchases.

With Christmas also being the season of overstock, retailers have an even harder time at this year with knowing what to do with surges of returned products from customers who over-bought or those who were gift unhappy. However, with the opportunity of a sustainable consumer market, there is real potential for retailers to turn on the green Christmas light with sustainable supply chain management strategies to help deal with overstock.

Top retailers are leading the sustainable way with the integration of e-commerce marketplaces that provide a platform to sell high volumes of overstock items, which would otherwise sit in warehouses and amount to losses in profit. With 2019 already resulting in disappointing sales, retailers cannot afford to take a blow at the time of year which is supposed to be the most profitable.

With a shift in consumer attitudes to sustainable shopping, the good news is that more buyers are also turning to secondary marketplaces to pick up rejected Christmas gifts to sell on to willing sustainable shoppers. These high-quality products can also be found at a discounted price to sell to on this new potential market of sustainable shoppers which enables retailers to find a diversified base of buyers for their high volumes of returned gifts.

With more sustainable options in retail than ever, driven by new sustainable consumer market demands, there may be more Christmas cheer for retailers than they expect. To find this, they must look for the opportunities around them to head into 2020 with a stronger financial year than they may have originally thought.


Ben Whitaker, B-Stock’s EMEA director

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