Poor sales show retailers must get to know eco-friendly consumers, says professor

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SUSTAINABILITY, over-packaging and carbon footprints are of increasing importance to consumers, according to an Aston Business School academic.

Figures released by the British Retail Consortium have revealed that total sales fell by 0.1% last year, marking the first annual sales decline since 1995.

Heiner Evanschitzky, Professor of Marketing at Aston Business School, commented: “From the perspective of retailers, 2019 may well be remembered as the year when environmental concerns championed by the likes of Greta Thunberg finally put a brake on consumerism.

“Evidence from surveys suggests people are buying fewer physical things and instead are more interested in ‘experiences’.

“In the face of stiff competition and fairly subdued consumer sentiment, retailers have to adapt their business models.

“It seems that two strategies currently work well: a value-based strategy – as championed by the discount retailers Aldi and Lidl in particular – or an inspiration-based strategy – as the big destination shopping centres such as London’s Westfield and Birmingham’s Bullring offer.

“Ultimately, though, the key to a successful strategy is to know your customers.

“Offering good value, convenience, or seamless online/offline experiences are no guarantee for success.

“The factor that differentiates is truly understanding customer needs and being clearly positioned – not being everything to everyone.

“In the new decade, knowing your customers may well mean paying more than lip-service to ethical and environmental concerns.

“If retailers want sales and profits to rise again, listening to customer concerns around sustainability, over-packaging and carbon footprints could well be the place to start.”