Conscious consumerism accelerated by covid-19, RetailEXPO research finds

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With the number of online orders continuing to rise during the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, shoppers are increasingly wanting more sustainable fulfilment options, the latest research from RetailEXPO suggests.

With nearly 45% of UK adults receiving more parcels since the start of lockdown on 23 March, original research of 2,000 UK consumers in the ‘Retail Trends: How retailers can harness digital to capture the consumer in 2020 and beyond’ Report reveals 42% of consumers would shop more with a retailer that offered low carbon deliveries or offered to offset the carbon cost of its deliveries. 

A further fifth (20%) of consumers said they would pay more for greener deliveries, as retailers are already looking at more sustainable ways to fulfil the rising numbers of online orders.  Sainsbury’s is rolling out its Chop Chop bike delivery service to 20 cities across the country, offering shoppers outside of London eco-friendly fulfilment in less than 60 minutes, while Starship Technologies has partnered with Co-op to announce the expansion of its fleet of autonomous electric delivery robots in Milton Keynes to provide convenient, carbon neutral deliveries.

Despite warnings that British consumer confidence in May fell to its lowest level since the global financial crisis over a decade ago due to the covid-19 pandemic, prompting fears of cautious consumer spending as non-essential retail reopens this month, 45% said they had a greater affinity with brands and retailers who were committed to sustainability initiatives. 

And this resurgence of the power of ‘green pound’ was reflective in what shoppers want to see as the UK High Street reopens, with many calling for more independent, local businesses – meaning less food miles and less reliance on a global supply chain – while others wanted more community-led retail initiatives to be available.  While 54% said there would always be a role for retail on the High Street, 49% wanted to see more independent retail businesses and over a quarter (27%) said they would be more likely to visit a High Street if it felt like more of a community.

Speaking at RetailEXPO’s Virtual Conference, ex-Waitrose MD, Lord Mark Price, highlighted the importance of localism, which he suggests will be a trend that is sustained by shoppers post-lockdown:

“Localism is going to be more important.  We have come to value local businesses during this time, so I think there is something really powerful about local, local producers and being local to your community.  Not feeling like you are a mass brand, but feeling like you are tied to a community and can serve local need.” 

“I am very optimistic there about the future of the High Street – I think it will be reengineered around local businesses that have got a global offer through an internet offering,” he added. 

Matt Bradley, event director at RetailEXPO, commented: “Spurred on by movements such as Extinction Rebellion, School Strikes for Climate, veganism, the plastic backlash and biodiversity conservation, consumers have found a compelling new reason to buy.  Retailers who fail to adapt to consumers’ rapidly changing priorities risk alienating their customers, eroding brand equity and profit margins at a time when trading conditions are difficult enough.”

“Luckily for retailers there are lots of ways to respond to the growing tide of consumer environmentalism, harnessing technology to ensure the greening of retail boosts profitability as well as sustainability,” he concluded.