Stores with a cause

Retail consultant Anny Cardinahl explains why passion for sustainability can bring new clients to outdoor stores.

With the catchline “the death of retail” appearing regularly in the headlines, you needed strong nerves to be a retailer in 2017. In April, Credit Suisse predicted that the US would see the highest number of store closures since the Great Recession, and over 5,000 stores actually closed.

Yet looking back in retrospect, the “Retail Apocalypse” now seems rather exaggerated. For instance, Forbes Magazine concluded that while there were a lot of losing companies, there were also many winners. In a column in October, Forbes Contributor Greg Maloney pointed out that “…stores that can combine convenience and value with great experiences will continue to win, those that don’t – will close.”

This is also true for outdoor retailers, and especially so for those with a passion for sustainability, explains Anny Cardinahl, founder of #ODLX Outdoordeluxe. With 25 years of experience, she explains her reasoning thus:

“In the physical stores, customers want experts and knowledgeable staff on site, someone who can help them beyond the basic research they have already done. The customer always has to come away with the feeling that they have chosen the right product. Specialist shops offering knowledge and a genuine identity will be the winners.”

This essentially describes how many outdoor specialists have been operating for years, knowing all the facts about membranes, how to put up a tent etc. When it comes to sustainability, however, the growing number of customers wanting to make the right choices are often left to themselves. They need to navigate through a jungle of unfamiliar eco labels, hang tags with green PR-lingo and staff who are just as lost themselves.

One risk is that the customers lose faith and stop spending money on the better choice.

The opportunity, on the other hand, lies in making the customer aware of what the outdoor industry is doing today. In many cases, retailers and brands have made pivotal changes. They simply need to communicate them more clearly.

But becoming a successful retailer with respect to sustainability does not only boil down to knowledge. It’s also about passion. Today’s retail store should do more than simply offer the best products, know-how and service. By filling the store with your values and vision, you are also showcasing your identity. Here, a sense of community with other like-minded people is becoming increasingly important.

“Stores must ensure they have an identity that appeals to the right target group, that they share the same values. The staff should come across as trustworthy friends who you would be happy to receive advice from.”

Communicating sustainability

“This is especially true when it comes to sustainability. The ‘better product’ is often a bit more expensive. It’s also a question of respect. Everyone feels betrayed when their willingness is exploited. In this context, honesty is even more important for a good customer relation.”

Here, communication is vital. As a retailer, one needs to find the balance between knowledge and passion when communicating with the conscious consumer. “Transparency and honesty can create a long-term relationship, which is much more important in a world where an unlimited number of choices can quickly take a customer group elsewhere. Mutual relationships are becoming more important than low prices.”

Working with communications can be demanding for the retailer with limited time and money.

If you have the passion and a little creativity, there is much to be gained. Loyalty towards the customers and having the “right people” are on a resurgence. Additionally, and with economic goals aside, isn’t protecting nature’s beauty the logical consequence and “sustainability” the raison d’être of an outdoor company? Anny Cardinahl agrees:

“A mission like this can create motivation for the daily business. Point of sales is a tough, service-oriented job where staff need as much motivation as they can get. As these motivated, informed staff do their job, customers are also apt to become more motivated and informed themselves.”

 

Håkan Wike
melanie.haas@norragency.com