In 2019, the continued demise of the high street as we know it is obvious. Here at Destination, we strongly believe that the high street will never simply vanish, after all the urge to go to the shops will never fully diminish, with over a quarter (28%) of consumers still going to view an item at a physical store before making the purchase (Divido Retail Research). It may not be as regular, or as manic as a Christmas Eve in the mid-90s, but people will always fall victim to a quality physical retail experience, a powerful marketing campaign or the lure of an unbeatable bargain in store. However, that bargain now comes with a set of hoops that must be jumped through. Brands and businesses are trying to configure tactical ways to not completely quit the high street, but still remain profitable. Over the past decade, companies big and small have been searching ferociously for ways to keep their high street shops open, and in some successful cases, grow also.
In December 2018, Retail Week revealed, ‘44.5% of UK consumers are more concerned about the impact we are having on the global environment than in previous years.’ For the first time in retail history, ethics and sustainability are shaping a brand’s marketing strategy, brand identity and the products they offer. It seems that supply and demand has now become sustainably supply and satisfy demand. Catering to the ethical shopper is the key to consistent custom, according to Retail Week, and so long as businesses offer products and brands carefully construct products with the consumer’s personal values in mind, they are in good footing to survive this downturn.
The relationship between retailer and consumer has changed, and will continue to do so. For millennials, it is authenticity and loyalty of a brand that matters. Price and discounts, according to 66% of millennials surveyed (Nielson), are not as important as the sustainability of the products they are looking to purchase. The retailer must now sell to customers that are already in the know. The days of the hard sell have changed and now they must react to the eco-conscious millennials and the younger Generation Z (Neilson).
Statistics suggest that Generation Z, although have similar ethical beliefs as millennials, are not big contributors to the cause as of yet, as the majority of them do not have a disposable income. Although, these population statistics still do not account for the remaining percentage of consumer that rest outside of the ‘Millennial’ and ‘Generation Z’ tag. According to the GlobalWebIndex, 55% of Generation X (36-54) and only 46% of Baby Boomers (55-64) are really conscious of their purchasing choices and the origins of said products.
How does this impact the marketability of a retail destination?
The first task would be to ensure that retailers consider both the impact and advantages of becoming more sustainable. However, the second - and arguably more challenging task - is to bring awareness and outreach to those consumers who are either disconnected or disillusioned with the idea of sustainable retail.
It is the fast-fashion stores that, according to GlobalWebIndex, are the biggest high street culprit; with water pollution, toxic chemical use and textile waste being used on mass to satisfy this high demand for cheap clothing. Less than half of eco-conscious consumers research clothes, shoes and bags before buying them (GlobalWebIndex). This clearly encourages an increase in profits, but this is still extremely worrying from a sustainable perspective. Therefore, one could argue that it’s the role of the destination themselves to really consider their place in this evolving industry and the actions of individual retailers, that make up that specific place.
This does, however, present a bigger problem. As mentioned previously, destinations are struggling to maintain footfall and dwell time. They are now presented with a battle of attempting to maintain footfall, while still abiding by sustainability expectations that are proving so successful in other sectors, such as the food industry (The Guardian). Fast-fashion stores cannot afford to decrease the frequency of their product output, yet they are gradually falling out of touch with the sustainable eco-conscious millennial consumer, thus less footfall.
In turn, the retail sector must weigh up the impact of producing more eco-conscious products against the current supply and demand. The demand from millennial customers may be slowly decreasing and so too will the Generation Z’s statistics, as they gradually get more disposable income, but the remaining 65% of the UK population is still in ethical flux (House Of Commons Library). The challenge, therefore, is to make sustainability more relevant to that particular target market.
Consumers are twice as likely to be influenced by family and friends when making a high-value or planned purchase, but more importantly, UK shoppers spend a wide variety of days researching their purchases – the majority of these searches being clicks online (Divido Retail Research). Two thirds of UK shoppers (62%) prefer to research high-value items online and then make the purchase in person. However, for the cheaper items, buying habits are actually based more upon impulse, accessibility and - of course - surrounding influence. Retail sectors such as fast-fashion outlets do have a large responsibility in changing the makeup of their stock, but the immediate impact of change originates from the consumer themselves and their influence on their peer’s buying habits.
This information is integral when considering both the marketability of a retail destinations, and their approach to sustainability. It is the community and immediate influences surrounding the consumer that shapes their buying habits, and becoming more eco-conscious is no different. In turn, destinations must embrace this in the most communal and hands-on way possible, placing themselves within the perspective of the consumer and bring sustainability to the heart of their customer relations.
How do companies like ours help?
One of the core values that we bring to any client looking to both increase footfall and become more sustainable is the idea of local people and community. Although, at first glance, one would expect sustainability of the high street to originate from the manufacturers and product distributors, as discussed previously, studies find that it is the consumer who has a greater impact on the future of the environment (Neilson). Therefore, the marketability of being a sustainable brand, or organisation as a whole, does not necessarily rest on the company itself, but the ways in which it interacts with its consumers and immediately accommodates to their buying habits.
This is why we prioritise new ways to reach out and discover the surrounding communities of our clients. We know that people not only make a brand, but also make progress happen. Through combining the accessibility of digital marketing with the personality and immediacy of event management, we are able to take a particular concept, (in this instance sustainability) and make it relatable for all. As ‘going green’ is now an expectation, simply suggesting that you are or intend to be eco-conscious is not enough. You must work alongside your consumers - particularly those who appear removed from the cause - and reach out to them, enabling them to see their individual voices reflected in an organisation's plans and marketing intentions.
Whether this involves running charitable events with the surrounding local communities and marketing sustainability or working alongside us to create a long-term marketing plan for your location, here at Destination we offer the full marketing package. The idea of sustainability markets itself pretty well - but you only reach those who are already aware and interested. To those consumers who are either isolated or disillusioned with the importance of sustainability in the retail sector, it is integral that they’re heavily considered as a means to both the resurrection and success of the high street, but more importantly, the current aim of a greener world.
To see how Destination could help you find new and inventive ways to market your eco-conscious destination, get in touch and be our next BIG thing!