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These days it pays to be a conscientious retailer. Those that don’t live up to expectations will suffer public humiliation via the eyes in the walls of social media and unforgiving journalists. Whilst the good will be put on a pedestal.

People are becoming increasingly concerned about the products they buy, wanting to know how they are made, where the ingredients come from and the wellbeing of the people who make them. We call them ‘conscious consumers’.

Meeting these standards can really affect businesses’ bottom line too. According to a recent Mintel report, British customers would pay up to 10% more for the same product if they can be certain that it has been ethically sourced and produced.

So, how can conscious retailers keep up with their consumers?

  • Take responsibility. Slavery and staff mistreatment accusations are widespread – Gap, American Apparel and Sports Direct (to name just a few) have all come under fire. Worryingly, many retailers don’t know the half of what happens in their supply chains. We recently launched MatrixChat, a worker welfare platform that allows factory workers to communicate concerns about working conditions and keep abreast of changes in rights and regulations. This will allow the brands we supply to confidently communicate their ethical compliancy to all customers. Further to this, digital labelling tech, like KnowLabel, allows shoppers to find out a product’s ethical compliancy by referring to the label.
  • Be green. The volume of goods produced in fashion means that it’s not the greenest industry, but we can still do our bit. According to the Carbon Trust, more than half (55%) of UK consumers would feel “much more than positive” about a company that has reduced the carbon footprint of its products. Cheap Monday and Kings of Indigo are great examples – committed to sustainability, from eco-friendly production techniques through to recycling. Wider initiatives include everything from textile collection bins for old clothing, to international brands reducing airmiles by using UK based factories.
  • Go natural. Organic clothing has been around for a while now, even big names like H&M and Topshop are populating their shelves with fashionable organic items. Primark has established the Sustainable Cotton Programme, where female farmers are trained in the practice of sustainable farming. Since its inception, the quality of cotton the budget retailer has produced has gone up, as have the wages of participating farmers. It’s great to see retailers finding ways to better use the raw materials. It just goes to show that natural, more environmentally friendly, clothing doesn’t have to be expensive.

It’s a business no brainer. As conscious consumers grow in their dominance, brands need to ensure they are taking practical steps to keep up otherwise they risk being left behind in favour of better alternatives.


Ben Read, Creative Director at Matrix and co-creator of Matrix Trends

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