- Eight in ten consumers say their day-to-day cost of living has gone up, with over half (51%) saying they’re already buying less goods and services.
- The cost of products and services are now the top considerations for shoppers, with three fifths (60%) more people prioritising value for money over environmental impact
- Money saving green habits such as buying second hand clothes and taking public transport remain popular, with two thirds (65%) thinking retailers should be doing more to support sustainable shopping behaviours
- New West End Company has today launched its West End Road To Zero Action Plan, a blueprint for retail & leisure destinations to collaborate to tackle the climate emergency.
UK Consumers Struggling To Shop Sustainably As Cost Of Living Rises
New research shows that rising consumer prices are already having a significant impact on UK shoppers. Eight in ten consumers say their day-to-day cost of living has gone up, with over half (51%) already cutting back on goods and services as a result of financial pressures.
The survey of 2,000 consumers in the UK, commissioned by New West End Company (NWEC) - which represents 600 retail, restaurant, hotel and property owners across Bond Street, Oxford Street, Regent Street and Mayfair - finds that tightening purse strings will drastically change shopping habits.
It comes after The British Retail Consortium revealed that growth in UK retail sales slowed last month, as fears over the rising cost of living led to the sharpest drop in consumer confidence since the 2008 financial crisis.
Of the consumers who expect their cost of living to rise even further in the next 12 months, value for money and cost of products and services are now the top of their list of considerations when shopping - so much so that 60% more people would prioritise value for money than environmental impact. Meanwhile, nearly a third (30%) say they will need to prioritise price over quality, and one in seven (15%) are concerned that they will shop less sustainably.
The findings are in sharp contrast with data that shows shoppers have become more environmentally conscious since the pandemic. Three in ten (29%) say they are more aware of the environmental impact of their shopping habits, whilst a quarter (24%) are more concerned about the carbon emissions related to home deliveries and online returns. This comes as over a third (36%) of respondents claim the amount they buy online has increased since the start of the pandemic.
With appetite for sustainable action remaining high but the price of goods rising, shoppers are favouring cost-effective ways to support green habits. The three most popular sustainable shopping behaviours are recycling clothing (41%), buying second-hand items (33%) and walking or taking public transport to the shops rather than driving (32%).
Jace Tyrrell, Chief Executive at New West End Company commented, "With the consumer prices index on course to breach 9% this month, the highest in three decades, it is unsurprising that consumers are having to make difficult decisions about how they spend their money."
“The good news is that consumers are more conscious about the impact their shopping habits have on the environment, and there is clearly interest in leading greener lifestyles.”
However, the research also reveals a desire for more support from retailers, with two thirds (65%) of shoppers saying retailers should be doing more to support their sustainability efforts. In fact, an additional two thirds (65%) believe retail businesses should collaborate with competitors in an effort to reduce the environmental impact of the industry.
When it comes to the areas consumers would like retailers to prioritise - the recyclability of goods packaging (47%), committing to no longer using single-use plastic (45%) and incentivising consumers to recycle unwanted goods (31%) - for example, by rewarding them with vouchers when they return products in-store - were the three most popular actions. Meanwhile, 27 per cent of consumers say they would favour locally-made goods that require less transportation and therefore have a smaller carbon footprint.
Tyrrell, continues: “Today’s research shows there is clearly a desire for retailers to make it easier for consumers to make more responsible choices - from how they package and transport their goods - to what they do with goods at their end of life. Bricks and mortar retail businesses can play a particularly important role by encouraging visitors to travel via public transport and therefore reducing carbon emissions associated with last mile deliveries.
“The high street also has an opportunity to create altogether more sustainable customer experiences, whether that’s recycling rewards schemes or product ranges that support locally-made goods. The West End, for example, is welcoming more start-up businesses and increasing the process of greening in our public spaces. In doing so, retailers will benefit from creating a more inviting environment for their visitors, and of course, improved environmental credentials.”
Oliver Wayman, Co-Creator #TOGETHERBAND & Co-Founder BOTTLETOP says: “The sharp rise in living costs must not undermine the advances we have made towards more sustainable consumer habits. While individuals are rightfully looking to save money wherever possible, retailers have an integral role and a responsibility to drive consumers towards sustainable, local and ethical shopping."
"Physical retail should provide personalised, experiential spaces that can inspire consumers towards sustainable actions, both through their shopping habits and beyond.”
Today’s research coincides with New West End Company’s ‘West End Climate Summit’ (Thursday 21st April), where experts across the retail, hospitality and property sectors will discuss how they can collaborate more effectively to address the climate emergency.
At the summit, New West End Company will also reveal its Road to Zero Sustainability Action Plan, which outlines its sustainability priorities for the next two decades, and is a blueprint for other retail districts to follow.
Tor Burrows, Executive Director, Sustainability & Innovation, Grosvenor Property UK comments: “London’s West End is home to some of the world’s most renowned brands, but also to some of the country’s most recognisable and historic buildings, with the built environment accounting for a staggering 85% of Westminster’s emissions. A collaborative relationship between property owners and occupiers is vital to ensuring that we can take effective climate action. Supporting and advancing sustainable retail must start with the buildings themselves, giving occupiers a physical platform for energy efficient operations. For our part, we are committed to ensuring our buildings are not only fit for purpose, but fit for the future – net zero both in development and operation.”
"A collaborative relationship between property owners and occupiers is vital to ensuring that we can take effective climate action. Supporting and advancing sustainable retail must start with the buildings themselves, giving occupiers a physical platform for energy efficient operations."
NOTES TO THE EDITOR
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About the research methodology
The research was undertaken by Opinium on behalf of New West End Company:
- General Population survey sample was 2,000 UK adults aged 18+. Fieldwork was undertaken 8th April 2022 to 11th April 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been nationally weighted.