Getting your retail business to be both profitable and sustainable is no easy task. Not only are you competing with large eCommerce stores, which makes profits hard to come by, but the cheaper options are typically the less sustainable ones. At first glance, it can seem impossible to run your business in a way that is both beneficial to the planet while also generating a profit. However, there are actually a few things you can do that will help you achieve this goal. Here are 6 strategies to try:
Implement Inventory Management
One of the first things you should do is look at how you are currently managing your inventory. Putting a more efficient system in place can not only help you improve profits, but it can reduce waste, allowing your retail business to be more sustainable. This is where inventory management comes in.
According to ApparelMagic, “Inventory management, at its most basic, is the process of tracking, managing, and maintaining an optimal inventory level.” With inventory management systems in place, you can accomplish a number of things.
For example, you can stock what is needed in particular areas. Let’s say you have retail stores in different parts of the country. Each one of them will likely serve a different audience, meaning you don’t need to have the exact same items in each store. Instead, you should stock more of what those customers want. Doing so would allow you to cut back on shipping costs and waste at the same time.
Another way inventory management can help is by letting you order exactly what you need. If you need to order supplies and materials for your retail business, you don’t want to order more than you need. The exact amount is hard to figure out unless you have a computer system tracking all your data for you.
Switch Packaging Material
The next thing you can look at is the materials you’re using to package your orders. If you’re using packaging that can’t be recycled after it’s used, then you are not running a sustainable business. At the same time, you should also look to use materials that come from other recycled materials. It’s much better for our planet if we can use the same shipping and packaging materials over and over again, rather than having to produce new ones every time.
If you need some eco-friendly packaging alternatives, you can check out this guide.
Change Your Shipping Options
Along similar lines, you should also examine the shipping options you provide to your customers. Offering 1 or 2 day shipping is the current trend, but it’s also not sustainable. This practice uses a lot more shipping materials and causes the package delivery service to have to drive around more.
A great way around this is by offering a Ship to Store option. With this option, customers can order your products online, then come to pick them up at one of your local stores. This way, you are only shipping things to one location (your store), rather than to each individual location. You can then combine many orders into a single shipment, cutting down your costs and improving your sustainability.
Cut Back on Single-Use Plastic
One practice that many stores currently follow is giving each customer a plastic bag when they are done checking out. These single-use plastic bags are one of the biggest problems when it comes to sustainability and being eco-friendly. By changing this practice in your retail store, you can not only improve your sustainability but your profitability as well.
For example, you can encourage your customers to bring their own tote bags from home. If they do so, you wouldn’t have to purchase as many single-use plastic bags. To encourage this behavior, you could add a small fee to anyone who does need a small plastic bag. This offsets your costs and will hopefully convince your customers to start bringing their own bags from now on.
Brand Yourself as Sustainable
Once you have started implementing some of the strategies above, you should then start branding yourself as a sustainable business. More and more, customers are looking to shop at businesses that share their ideals. If you can demonstrate that you are a sustainable business, you’ll likely start to bring in more customers who are looking for these practices when deciding where to give their business.
As an example, if you decide to cut back on single-use plastic bags, let your customers know why. A simple sign that says “In our effort to use more sustainable business practices, we have decided to cut back on the use of plastic bags. Please help us out by bringing your own bag from home.” You can also use your sustainable practices in marketing copy, press releases, and on your social media.
Make Sustainability a Priority
Finally, sustainability is something you need to make a core part of your business. It should be something that you strive to improve every day, rather than something you do as an afterthought. There are two major reasons for this.
First, by making sustainability a priority, you’ll be a lot better at it. To make an impact, your retail store needs to make big changes. Doing something now and again simply won’t cut it.
Second, long-term sustainability is better for your profits. Improving your inventory management, cutting back on plastics, and changing your shipping habits are all things that will benefit your profit-margin, but you will only see these profits if you stick with your sustainability practices.
Take some time to examine your retail store and look for the areas where you have the most waste. Maybe you’re ordering too many supplies or your shipping methods could be more efficient. Once you’ve identified the trouble spots, you can then look for more sustainable ways to do things. Running a sustainable retail store isn’t always easy, and the profits may not be there right away, but the long-term benefits will likely make your efforts worth it.
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