By Ron Lutz
Today’s consumers are far more aware of the impact their purchases have on the environment. According to a recent study, nearly 75% of shoppers have sustainability on their mind when holiday shopping. In other words, adopting greener practices during and after the holidays can show your customers that you’re conscious of their concerns.
However, being eco-friendly during the holidays doesn’t mean compromising on festivities or deviating from evergreen processes next year. Instead, savvy retailers are approaching their holiday makeovers as a culmination of the best practices they are already following — all while delivering on shopping joy.
As you prepare for the holiday rush, we’ve identified three tactics that will ensure your customer demands are met while adhering to your foundational green efforts.
Build holiday displays around your products
When thinking of holiday décor, it’s natural to reach for tinsel and trimmings. But this season, why not forego the ornaments for what you have inside the store? Far too often, retailers feel the need to source new materials to create unique and impactful holiday displays. Stores frequently overlook items they already have that can create a lasting customer experience while reinforcing the brand.
Break free of tradition and consider using your products as the building blocks for your holiday displays. If you’re a bookstore, stack books in the shape of a Christmas tree or Santa’s sleigh. Or if you’re a toy shop, create a unique winter wonderland using items available for purchase in store. Stores that sell a wide range of sustainable products should incorporate these items into the display to emphasize your year-round dedication to green practices. As a result, customers can learn how to can make simple swaps this holiday season.
By looking internally for your seasonal design, you will create a unique visual unmatched by neighboring retail locations. Better yet, you can easily return the products to the shelves once the holidays are complete. No additional storage would be required.
Try more renewable wrapping alternatives
Unfortunately, the shiny papers and satin bows that stud the bottom of Christmas trees each year are often quickly discarded on Dec. 25th or the 8th night of Hanukkah. In fact, Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period compared to the rest of the year. And if every family in America wrapped three presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
While offering gift wrapping may not seem green, the growth of recycled gift wrap allows retailers to provide eco-friendly packaging options that may save customers from buying additional rolls of new paper this year. To ensure your customers take advantage of these materials, consider providing free wrapping services during the holiday season.
Another option is forgoing traditional papers, bags, and ribbons all together for items that have purpose outside of the gifting season. Retailers can provide inspiration for customers to incorporate reusable items like festive tea towels for cooking themed gifts or newspaper pages for avid readers. During the holidays, you could even host a sustainable gift-wrapping class for items purchased in store to drive traffic to your shop.
Consider consolidated store pick up
It’s no secret that many consumers will try to complete their holiday shopping without setting foot in a physical location. In today’s digital landscape, it can feel much easier to press a button than fight holiday traffic. But consider how often we all place orders online, only to figure out it must be returned or that we forgot something we will need to order separately. Done correctly, you can actually reduce carbon footprints by encouraging an in store trip.
Packaging and shipping companies take on a greater burden during the holidays, tackling speedy delivery requirements or redelivering items that couldn’t be dropped off the first time. Lots of waste can accumulate while trucks run around the clock to pull inventory and deliver to front doors. On the flip side, shoppers that run from one store to another to compare prices and inventory are worsening their carbon footprints.
Fortunately, melding the digital and in store experience is the most efficient way to shop. It is important to encourage customers to research products online to determine what they want and where it is available in-store near them. Retailers can reduce truck rolls and alleviate the environmental impact from emissions by sourcing local inventory and offering customers consolidated in-store pickup options. In addition, customers will be less likely to shop with competition around town to find the perfect gift.
Remember, sustainability doesn’t just happen during the holidays
It’s important to remember that sustainability is not a seasonal occurrence, but rather something practiced actively throughout the year. Customers care about the environmental impact that shopping can have, and by actively practicing and promoting your sustainability efforts, your brand can differentiate itself in the eyes on consumers.
As you work to create your green holiday experience, take the time to look at your practices from this past year and identify how they can be used to further augment your design. Once the holidays are over, spend a few minutes examining any new or innovative sustainable approaches from this holiday season to see how they can be applied to your daily operations.
Ron Lutz is the EVP and Chief Client Officer at Miller Zell.