The Mixed Consumer Signals of Going Green

Every time this reporter goes to the supermarket, I am in awe of the shoppers who whip out their canvas bags. Somehow they remember to pack these bags so they are always ready when a shopping trip arises. I’m jealous, as they get back 5 cents for every bag.

Unfortunately, I am not the only one thinking, “I should do that next time.” I exemplify many Americans as far as shopping green. We want to, we just don’t always do it. I want organic, but sometimes the budget is too tight. I want to eliminate using bottled water, but it is so darn convenient. I want natural beauty products, but fear they aren’t always the best quality.

Research from WSL Strategic Retail shows that, despite some of the hesitancies — like mine — green is growing. Even in a rough economic cycle, consumer interest in eco-friendly products has increased, said the study. Going forward, in order to build loyalty, the company suggests “providing shoppers with unique and innovative opportunities to voice their environmentally friendly values in affordable ways.” Women who like natural cosmetics are among the most loyal in the universe. Many insist on natural to avoid skin reactions from ingredients. They won’t switch, and they seek out stores that carry their brands.

Consumers are definitely interested in energy-saving items such as lightbulbs and appliances. And those cloth shopping bags are becoming ubiquitous. The study found that 41 percent of consumers — up from 31 percent from a similar study last year — are using reusable grocery bags. As more and more consumers go green, it is expected the habits will translate to beauty. If consumers don’t shop explicitly for natural, they may want packages that are reusable or recyclable. Some consumers indicate they want items with less packaging.

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Where there is an even greater opportunity is in retailers marketing their earth-friendly practices. The WSL research found one in four shoppers say they prefer to shop in stores that are trying to be more green. So even if they are hesitant about green products, they reward retailers for their efforts. Walgreens and Target are among those with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System) stores, and Wal-Mart is using more solar panels in stores.

Green is a subject that keeps coming up and being debated. When the economy went sour, many pundits expected green sales to turn red. But research such as WSL’s shows the green movement really does prove it is sustainable.


People, Places and Things

A few words with Ted Rubin, chief marketing officer of E.L.F. Cosmetics, about his firm’s efforts in social networking.

WWD Beauty News: Would you say you are at the forefront of using social media for mass beauty companies?

Ted Rubin: We are definitely among the best. We are involved on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and always looking for others. We really believe in touching our customers. If we hear of someone [who] is unhappy, we go out of our way to fix it because an unhappy customer will tell people. But a customer you make happy will tell even more and be a fan for life.

WWD Beauty News: Why are social networks so important for cosmetics?

T.R.: Cosmetics is all about experimenting and sharing. Women love to talk and share ideas. When it comes to bloggers, we want the everywoman. We want people who are using and playing with our products. We are building relationships, and it results in sales.


What’s in Store

Rite Aid Promotes Standley: Rite Aid announced John T. Standley, Rite Aid president and chief operating officer, will become president and ceo, effective June 24. Mary Sammons, Rite Aid chairman and ceo, will continue on as chairman.

Walgreens Helps Haiti: Just days into offering customers the option to make donations to Haiti disaster relief efforts at its registers, Walgreens stores across the country have collected more than $1 million. Contributions are helping the American Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund send assistance and aid to those affected by last week’s earthquake. Walgreens stores will continue taking customer donations through the end of the month.

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