As shopping habits move from the real to the virtual world, small businesses in the UK and Ireland must adopt more sustainable practices. This includes introducing the idea of positive shopping to the conscious consumer.
The changing face of the high street
The most recent hit to the high street is the announcement of 8 further John Lewis closures in the UK. This follows on from the collapse or physical exit of retail stalwarts Debenhams, Bonmarche, Topshop, Warehouse, Jaeger and more.
Recent reports show that as many as 17,500 chain stores shut their doors as a result of direct or collateral damage from the pandemic.
It’s evident that the nature of shopping has changed. With long-standing and unpredictable lockdown changes, even the most hardcore luddites have had to embrace online shopping.
Sectors such as online grocery have embraced huge growth. Ocado reported 35% retail growth overall last year with a 40% growth in the initial months of the pandemic. Retail giant Amazon reports that their UK sales rose by over 51% in 2020.
How does this affect business?
Consumer trends forecasted by Forbes indicate that people want products that make “working, learning and relaxing at home” easier.
Convenience and the ease of getting things delivered to doorsteps has been prioritised. Shopping locally has also seen increased success.
According to Internet Retailing, 52% shop locally more than they used to, with 49% wanting to buy locally sourced products.
A Barclaycard study in the Guardian showed that 66% of UK consumers decided to buy local in 2020. This resulted in a 63% increase in spending at specialist food stores (local butchers, bakeries, cafes, grocers).
Another study by uSwitch showed that half of the people polled would be very likely to buy from small businesses. 60% said that they would make it a point not only to shop from smaller businesses. They would even pay more to support a small brand.
What can SMEs do to stay relevant?
All too often, the focus is on the challenges faced by small and sustainable businesses. Not enough time, not enough hands on deck, huge learning curve. Less budget for marketing or operations, less insider knowledge of industry events and policy changes.
1. Focus on the narrative
Before ethical consumers can make informed choices, confusing messaging around sustainability must be simplified. The conscious consumer needs to find a point of connection to the sustainable brand.
How to connect with the conscious consumer
Find every opportunity to tell your story, because this is what the conscious consumer needs to know before a purchase decision.
Why you do what you do. How you do what you do. What you hope to achieve. What impact you make. How you incorporate sustainability into your business practices. What you really truly care about.
How to share your story
Choose a few key messages and repeat them as often as you can, whether on social media, on marketing material, directly to your consumers or on your website.
Be honest about your journey, especially your failures. No one understands that sustainability is a journey more than the conscious consumer.
2. Focus on the opportunity
Consumers care more about ethics and the environment despite the prospect of a recession according to a report by the BBC .
A study by Accenture has looked at data around how Covid-19 will change the consumer. While many consumers will be careful about future choices purely from a financial perspective, there is a segment who are perfect for sustainable businesses to focus on.
82% of this segment are prioritising making more sustainable purchases. They are more likely to buy online through digital channels. They are also, on average, younger and wealthier and happy to spend money as they try new things. 1 in 3 of them rank sustainability as a top priority.
3. Focus on the positive
Part of our narrative has been to create Positive Shopping opportunities for sustainable brands in the UK and Ireland.
What is Positive Shopping?
It is concentrated effort to give consumers opportunities to spend money with businesses that are actively doing their part to be kinder to the planet and contribute to the green economy. This will also help to keep money within local communities as well as cut carbon miles.
“With shop closures and restrictions, we’ve had to become more creative in the way we shop, and with more time we are scrutinising practices, and there is real appetite for businesses to reflect our values especially around kindness and the environment. At Blue Patch, these are the values we want to showcase as such, the businesses that we promote have to demonstrate these credentials.” Jane Langley, CEO and Founder of Blue Patch.
We have been sharing our initiative “The Power of Positive Shopping” with businesses and customers who visit the Blue Patch website searching for sustainable options for everyday living.
We’ve created a way to connect local businesses with consumers. We connect these businesses to shops, museums and other venues where they can pop up and reach new markets.
All of our brands have access to these opportunities as part of our membership.
Please get in touch with us if you’d like more information, or to become a Blue Patch member.