There has been a marked shift in consumer preferences over the past decade. Brand identity, as well as the standards and practices of a business, have been put under greater scrutiny with tools like social media, affecting their perceived reputation and the support given by customers. As a result, businesses are encouraged to pursue more socially and environmentally responsible goals, even at the expense of operation costs, so as to ensure ongoing sales and avoid boycotts.
This pursuit extends to retail store design too, prompting high street businesses to rethink the aesthetic and utility of their shopfronts in order to celebrate ethical endeavours and stand out among competitors. Both international and local independent businesses benefit from this, being able to market themselves to customers with pride, whether it is an Apple store’s carbon-neutrality, a grocer selling locally-grown produce, or a clothing brand replacing their plastic shop fittings with sustainably made alternatives.
There are three key storefront trends growing from conscious retail. We’ve put together a guide to help you better understand their appeal, as well as navigate jargon like circular economy and recommerce.
Environmental sustainability is at the forefront of many minds as climate change continues to be a priority for customers. As such, retailers that are able to offer green products and services are seeing greater demand. Plastic bags and packaging are disappearing from forward-thinking stores, being replaced with paper, or, in some cases, ‘potato plastic’. Major brands, like Old Spice and Colgate, are replacing their iconic packaging with such eco-friendly alternatives, even sharing designs with competitors, a decision that may seem counterintuitive but actually helps greatly with their brand’s ethical image.
Welcoming a customer into a store is no longer about maximising their spend. Historically, terms like up-selling were ubiquitous, with posters and employees seeking to add extra purchases to a customer’s shopping list. Now, retailers are moving toward hosting customers instead, that is to say, they are looking to sell their brand instead of a product.
This has led to a number of stores redesigning their shop spaces to be more open, filled with stylish designs instead of numerous products, impressing customers with aesthetics and policies. Shop spaces, as a result, are becoming experiential, hosting classes and brand workshops, as well as demonstrations that allow customers to better understand the product and work each business sets out to achieve.
Upcycled and pre-loved are terms you may be familiar with, and there are many others that falling under the recommerce of circular economy practices. At its essence, this business concept is about transforming the linearity of production and consumption into a circle, leaving little to no waste. Everything is considered, from the aforementioned disposable packaging, to retail furniture like slatwall and mannequins, to the products that are actually being sold, sourcing and offering recycled materials is paramount.
Refurbished goods are also appearing more commonly on shelves with the initial stigma of ‘used goods’ being replaced with eco-friendly merit, leading a number of retailers to proudly sell products that would otherwise have been wasted.