Consumers care about sustainability. They are willing to spend more money on products that are marketed with claims of being climate-friendly in some way. They also prefer to do business with brands that offer “green” products. These aren’t just conveniently stated preferences. Overall growth is higher for consumer packaged goods (CPG) that are environmentally friendly.
Businesses should expect these trends to influence customer behaviors over the holidays. This is illustrated quite well by the increasing awareness and participation in green Friday. This event is held on the same day as black Friday. However, instead of engaging in intense shopping sprees and bargain hunting, people are encouraged to:
- Shop mindfully
- Shop locally
- Consider not participating in black Friday at all
- Choose eco-friendly options where possible
So, what behaviors can businesses expect to see that reflect this growing trend towards green consumerism? Here are a few predictions along with some strategies that retailers can adopt.
Buy Local Continues to Gain Traction
The buy local trend isn’t going anywhere. Consumers continue to embrace it, but they are getting more selective than ever. While they are happy to patronize local businesses as a way to support the local economy, it takes more than that to have a green holiday season.
This year, more consumers will make an effort to buy locally produced goods. This includes locally grown food and other products. The ever-popular gift cards will continue to be a big seller this year, but local restaurants and shops will receive a bigger slice of that pie.
Retailers Gain a Greater Understanding of Holiday Waste
Business owners know they can appeal to conscientious shoppers by emphasizing their efforts to be more green than their competitors. But, that’s difficult to quantify without a clear understanding of where they are now, and what they can do to reduce waste and energy consumption.
A green audit may reveal some ugly truths. However, it also creates a baseline that can be used to identify what needs to be changed, and track how successful those changes are.
Customers Find Alternatives to Wrapping Paper
A perfectly wrapped package is certainly pretty, but everything else about wrapping paper is pretty ugly. More than half of wrapping paper purchased each year ends up in landfills. The manufacturing process pollutes, and involves a lot of unsavory labor practices. Then there’s the amount of fossil fuels that are burned transporting wrapping paper, usually across the ocean to our homes.
It’s not hard to see why other choices such as:
- Reusable gift boxes
- Fabric “Santa sacks”
- Brown craft paper
- Vintage wrapping paper from thrift stores
Are all popular choices.
Businesses Embrace Eco-Friendly Return Policies
Returns are a part of the holiday shopping experience. In the past, returns have led to increased waste and energy consumption. Unusable goods often end up in landfills. Other items may need to be shipped across the country or even the world to be resold or trashed anyway.
This is the year to rethink all of this. Here are some solutions to adopt:
- Discourage needless returns with restocking fees
- Allow in-store returns for goods purchased online
- Work with logistics partners to plan a more efficient returns process
- Donate or resell returned items to local businesses to repurpose or resell
- Hire local junk removal companies for eco-friendly removal and recycling options
Rethinking The Christmas Tree
Fake Christmas trees are often made of plastics and other materials that aren’t recyclable and are terrible for the environment. Buying a locally grown tree may be a better option, but not by much. These evergreen trees are often sprayed with chemicals repeatedly during their short lives.
The best option may be a locally grown tree from a farm that embraces sustainable practices. If the tree is potted so it may be returned to the earth, that’s even better!
Good Inventory Management is Eco Friendly
It’s challenging to manage product inventories ahead of the holidays. Most retailers rightfully expect a surge in demand. Nobody wants to miss out on the great opportunities that are just a couple of weeks away.
At the same time, overbuying is wasteful. Worse, inventory overstock often ends up in landfills, either immediately or after the season. It’s important to use reliable forecasting methods to tighten up inventory management and avoid this scenario.
Experiences Over Consumer Goods
People are choosing to gift their loved ones with practical, meaningful experiences rather than consumer goods. The minimalism trend is still strong, and people are finding many consumer products less appealing than ever. So, when given a choice, experiences are winning out. If these can be sourced from local businesses, even better.
In addition to being more eco-friendly, experiences often strengthen bonds between giver and receiver. Additionally, giving experiences is only limited by the customer’s creativity. The gift can be anything from a bucket list fishing trip to money gifted to a single relative who wants to take a look into online dating.
Sustainable Sourcing is Key
Retailers can do a lot to embrace a green-friendly holiday. However, the biggest impact comes when every stop along the supply chain buys into this equally. That’s why brands that truly want to assure customers that they are an environmentally friendly option need to take a closer look at how and where they are sourcing their products.
This is the year to choose local suppliers and manufacturers where possible. Also, environmental stewardship includes knowing where products and supplies are obtained, how they are transported, and whether there are better options available.
Handcrafted And Consumable Gifts Trend Heavily
Ultimately, people want gifts under the tree. That desire isn’t going anywhere, but how consumers approach this certainly is. People will spend more time and money this year on handcrafted items that they either buy locally or make themselves. This includes consumable goods such as baked goods, handmade skincare products, and crafts.
Time to Start Preparing Now
The best time to start planning for a green holiday season was likely several months ago. Still, there are still steps that both retailers and consumers can make to reduce their carbon footprints over the next few weeks. Also, there’s no time like the present to begin working on a competitive green-holiday strategy for 2024.