Blog: Dean BestThe rise of the "thrifty green"

Dean Best | 21 September 2012

Attending events like the World Retail Congress allows access to senior executives beyond the food industry, which, on issues like sustainability, can reveal interesting insight. A session this morning (21 September) featured Ian Cheshire, chief executive of UK home improvement retailer Kingfisher.

Cheshire runs a retailer with operations across Europe, including the UK chain B&Q and is seen as at the forefront of thinking on how business builds sustainbility into their operations.

On a panel alongside Unilever chief marketing officer Keith Weed and B S Nagesh, vice chairman of Indian retailer Shoppers Stop, Cheshire discussed how winning consumers' trust on sustainability is hard for retailers but is essential.

Cheshire told delegates consumers were looking for retailers to "help" them make choices and buy products that would, for instance, have a positive impact on the environment.

However, he warned shoppers remained interest in sustainability but, amid the challenging economic conditions of the last five years, wanted to make a difference without necessarily paying for it. "Consumers aren't prepared to pay any kind of premium," he said. "It's a great challenge for an organisation to still deliver an economic return."

The Kingfisher boss said a new type of consumer - the "thrifty green" - had emerged.

"There is a permanent shift in consumer behaviour. It's more now the thrifty green rather than the premium green and we're seeing potentially up to 80% of the population saying: 'I will buy that product if it was made easy and it was the same price.' This is now a majority point of view and what we've got to do as retailers is meet the economic interest and solve that economic challenge."

Food for thought for food manufacturers and grocers, too.



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