Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Retail goes green

Today’s shaping up to be all about green. First this morning I received an e-mail reminder about Blog Action Day on October 15th, then I read about the Howies store on Northern Planner and then read about the new Marks & Spencer ‘green’ store in Bournemouth. So, although Blog Action Day isn’t until Monday, I have to squeeze a green post in before then to speak about the two stores, but don’t worry, I’ll think of something else for the 15th!

First off then, the Howies store:

Nice company, good quality, nice products and now a nice, shiny new store. Keeping in line with their ethos, the new store uses sustainable, low-impact materials wherever possible, from their ‘T-trees’, T shaped modular shelving made from ‘sustainably sourced oak from a council run project in Pembrokeshire’; to replacing plasterboard with wool-board and wood chippings with recycled glass. Energy saving has also been big on the agenda which could have posed a slight problem given its Carnaby Street location as the street has a rule that all shops must keep their lights on at night. However, Howies managed to get round this in a novel way, placing a light switch outside which customers can press if they want to see the store lit up. Ergo, no energy is wasted during the night – genius! Taking into consideration the commitment to quality and sustainability the company have put into their clothing, it’s really nice to see the same commitment when it comes to their store. Even nicer, they have dedicated a ‘power of 10’ wall to products they love, one of which happens to be a reusable drinking bottle at the moment, which can be refilled at the tap in-store. Unfortunately I doubt I’ll be in the store any time soon since I don’t live in London, but still, even just reading about it and seeing the pictures has made me smile. Well done Howies. I hope the store is as successful as its online counterpart and concessions.

Next, from small to large, and the new Marks and Spencer store in Bournemouth. Well, I say new, it’s not actually new per say, it’s just been made-over, green stylee. How you may ask? Well... the many modifications include: Daylight sensors in the windows which are designed to switch off spotlights when the sun is shining; two sets of doors to help save heat; infra-red sensors in the changing rooms which mean that the lights are only on when there is someone in them; store lights which automatically switch off when the burglar alarm is set for the night; air conditioning which is not only supplied by a green energy company but also only chills the air at head level; freezer cabinets with small LED strips instead of fluorescent bulbs, with their doors shut to conserve energy; escalators which run at reduced energy when no-one is on them; shelving units made from a light, easy to transport, scratch-resistant material called Enviro-wall; toilets with a dual-flush system which allows you to use less water per flush if you wish; a roof full of green plants that need little watering; staff with fleeces made from recycled plastic bottles (granted, I know little about textiles or recycling processes, but I’m pretty amazed at this); AND, even more green products on the shelf. Phew, that’s a long list! All this speaks for itself really, but in case you’re wondering, it should mean that the store should use 25% less energy than before and 90% of its carbon output will be eliminated. Even the waste from the refurbishment didn’t go to waste, with 80% being recycled, the flooring for example being turned into traffic cones. Pretty good going, especially considering that, if successful this concept will be rolled out across more of its stores and warehouses – which total more than 550 altogether. Hopefully then this is just a sign of things to come for the high-street retailer.

Big pats on the back for Howies and M & S then. It’s a bit of a suck-up post for the both of them, but I think it’s well-deserved. And although I’m much more convinced that the motives behind Howies actions are pure, the fact remains that both have made a commitment to being green and that’s the most important thing. Time more retailers took a leaf out of their book (pardon the pun – they seem to be coming thick and fast this weather).

N.B. Photos nabbed from New Consumer and Northern Planner

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