Plan A pays off for M&S as shoppers rate it the most sustainable retailer

GlobalData Retail 19 February 2020 (Last Updated February 19th, 2020 11:29)

Plan A pays off for M&S as shoppers rate it the most sustainable retailer
Retailers rating the highest for customer-perceived sustainability have been struggling in terms of sales growth. Credit: GlobalData.

Somewhat contrasting to their recent sales performances, traditional high street players M&S and John Lewis & Partners have come out top among UK clothing and footwear shoppers asked to rate key retailers on their sustainability, while fast fashion and rapidly growing players such as boohoo.com and JD Sports are trailing behind.

The chart above shows key retailers’ positioning based on the percentage of UK clothing and footwear shoppers that rated each retailer as sustainable (on the x axis) and each retailers’ forecast UK clothing and footwear annualised sales growth in 2019 versus 2018 (on the y axis). Sustainability rating data is taken from GlobalData’s survey of 2,000 nationally representative UK respondents conducted in February 2020.

The lack of correlation between sustainability perceptions and revenue growth (none of the retailers that scored over 50% for sustainability achieved more than 5% sales growth) indicates that although environmental concerns are seeping further into consumers’ conscience, there are far more important factors when making purchase decisions, namely price and product choice. In addition to this, retailers’ operations can be difficult for consumers to decipher, with 78.4% of the clothing and footwear shoppers surveyed stating that they struggle to understand which retailers are truly sustainable.

Despite this, sustainability is becoming a concern for more shoppers and although retailers cannot rely on environmental credentials solely to drive performance, they will go some way to protect their brand identity in the future. Fast fashion players such as Primark, Topshop / Topman, Sports Direct and boohoo.com must consider how they can significantly overhaul key strategies and their supply chains (where necessary) to be able to confidently communicate their sustainability stance with small product collections not enough to change overarching shopper perceptions.