Innovative and Sustainable Scrubs and Apparel

Green Today: It’s Not Just the Color of Money

Written by Marshal Cohen, Chief Industry Analyst, The NPD Group Inc., Marshal.Cohen@npd.com

mantrameds.comJust how much emphasis do consumers put on eco-friendly product these days?  Our research in 2005 showed that only 11 percent of consumers said they were looking for product that was eco-friendly (that didn’t include food and cars). That number grew to 18 percent by 2008. Then there was this ‘little’ distraction called the recession and the consumer almost all but forgot about eco-friendly with the exception of electricity, automobiles (gas consumption, more than emissions) and healthier food.

Enter the recovery and consumers have begun their focus on eco-friendly again, but with a very different spin. The consumer today is more focused on what they can do to reduce their own expenses as they relate to a more energy efficient lifestyle. More and more they tell us they are more aware of their carbon footprint, but, not quite the same way as prior to recession.

Now… here comes the kicker. Today’s consumers expect that the companies they buy from are doing more than their part to make eco-friendly decisions for their businesses. The consumer expects that corporations are doing the right things and they want to know that they are supporting those efforts. Moreover, they are willing to do business or more inclined to do business with eco-responsible companies. The biggest difference with the consumer today is in how their focus has shifted. They feel that the responsibility for ‘green’ lies with the brand and the store.

So what does this mean for brands and retailers? Their role must continue in offering the eco-friendly option and even more in the communication of what they are doing. Today, 24 percent of consumers state that when given a choice and not asked to make sacrifices in the integrity of the product, they will chose eco-friendly even if it costs them 20 percent more. That is a huge change from the 18 percent that said they would favor the eco-option back in 2008.
Stores and brands would do themselves a great service (and our planet earth, too) by offering the eco-option and to make sure the consumer is aware of their offering.

Sixty-three percent of consumers say they are not aware of the choices when deciding on products that offer eco-friendly options. However, automobiles have finally done a better job. Keep in mind the automobile is now 100 years old and it is only now that we are seeing some dramatic changes in the traditional internal combustion engine to hybrid to electric, etc.  If we consider that it took the auto industry 100 years to change, what does that mean for the fashion industry?

I don’t think that the industry need take that long; in fact, as the industry is always on the cutting edge perhaps there is a leadership role that should be take on. There are many companies already using eco-friendly methods for production and incorporating eco-friendly materials, but are they communicating that to the consumer well?

It only takes one quick walk through a department or specialty retailer for you to arrive at an answer. That answer is emphatically, “No!” How many brands are even allowed to tag the merchandise with attributes and eco-friendly production methods? Not many, if any.

So what should we do as we look for ways to communicate this? First, stores need to do a better job of working with manufacturers so they can then showcase the strides they have made in becoming eco-friendly or green whether it’s in the store, in their advertising or social media platforms. Brands, too, can and should use social media, marketing tools and direct communication to consumers to help spread their good word.

Consumers want to do the right thing and they are even willing to pay a little more to get it right.   Consumers have to see the options and be offered the opportunity so that they know they are playing a role in helping to take better care of our earth. I would urge you to look deep and hard at what you are doing, and if it is good news, share it with the world. Show the consumer you care, you are there to offer them the option and partner with retailers to spread the word.

Don’t wait 100 years to make your world better. Don’t wait 100 years to tell the world you did, either. Green in fashion has become about money again, value actually, but eco-green is something the consumer uses to justify making the purchase rather than putting it off.  Even if just five percent of consumers justify a purchase for the ‘green’ product — paying just a bit more rather than passing on it because it has no perceived benefit — then your business will grow as a result of that purchase. How would you like to find five percent growth today? We all would.

So, there it is:  Design it, Make it, Sell it Green and get some growth at the same time.

About Marshal Cohen
Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of The NPD Group Inc., is a nationally-known expert on consumer behavior and the retail industry. He has followed retail trends for more than 30 years, at NPD, as the head of leading fashion and apparel companies, as well as at major retailers. As part of his work at NPD, Marshal leads many top firms in long-range and strategic planning sessions. He often utilizes motivational presentations to help launch corporate goals and kick off meetings. Marshal recently published his second book, “Buy Me! How to Get Customers to Choose Your Products and Ignore the Rest.”
In addition to his duties at NPD, Marshal is a guest professor at North Carolina State University, School of Textiles. There he is introducing students and faculty to techniques for analyzing and applying data. Recently, Marshal has been a guest lecturer at the Fashion Institute of Technology and at the Wharton School of Business. On November 2, 2009, Marshal was named to the Footwear News Power 100 list for the second time in three years.
Marshal is also a regular contributor to many major media outlets. He is frequently quoted in publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Women’s Wear Daily.  Additionally, he appears on various television news programs including “Today,” “Good Morning America,” and “CBS Sunday Morning,” and is a regular guest on Bloomberg TV and Fox Business News.  He is also a sought-after speaker at key industry events such as MAGIC and Sourcing at MAGIC, The WSA Show, The Fairchild CEO Summits, The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Annual Convention, Apparel’s Executive Forum and The American Apparel and Footwear Association’s (AAFA) Annual Summit.
Since joining NPD in 1999, Marshal has held a variety of positions analyzing and interpreting NPD’s uniquely combined consumer and point-of-sale tracking services for the apparel and footwear industries. His career began in the training program at Bloomingdale’s, where he worked his way up to merchandise manager. From there, he became president of WilliWear and subsequently president of Stanley Blacker. He was also founder, owner, and president of Motive Marketing Group.

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