Consumer consumption is undoubtedly not the best thing for the environment. But those of us who are independent brick & mortar retailers can take pride in the fact that we offer an alternative that is better for the planet than online shopping.

Returns are one example of something local shopkeepers do better than Amazon and other giant web retailers.  The e-commerce return rate is estimated to be two to three times that of brick & mortar stores – averaging a shocking 20%-30%.  According to The Guardian, a returns platform “recently calculated that only 50% of clothes that are returned are ever resold. Many are sent directly to landfill.” It hurts just to imagine that kind of waste.

Customers who get to try on clothes before making a purchase are likely to find the fit and look that they want. Similarly, those selecting home accessories, gifts or toys in person benefit from having the opportunity to compare them with other options before deciding what to buy. And when independent retailers do get a return, we are usually able to put it back in stock – or to sell it at a reduced price.

Another benefit of buying in person is avoiding the considerable transportation cost of getting a single item from a vendor to the customer’s home. The packaging waste of shipping is considerable, to say nothing of the carbon footprint of delivery vehicles traveling all the way to an individual address. Sourcing locally whenever possible for your shop adds even more to the environmental benefit you offer over even brick & mortar big box stores.

Small businesses have the opportunity to control their energy use, and to encourage consumer behavior such as bringing in a reusable shopping bag. (We offer a chocolate coin as a reward.)  Choosing recycled paper products for use in the store, and selling well-made, long lasting merchandise is also good for the planet.

As the toolkit offered to local governments by Dale Martin of Victoria, Australia says, “By reducing carbon emissions, conserving energy, preserving natural resources, and supporting sustainable practices, we can collectively mitigate the negative impacts of consumerism on our planet.” Earth Day is an excellent time to remind your customers that shopping local is a good choice for preserving our environment.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder