How Sustainable Retail Design Can Help You Achieve Your Sustainability Goals

If you’re like many companies, you have already made commitments to sustainability…and now is the time to fulfill those commitments.

There are a variety of ways to reach your sustainability goals: After all, sustainability doesn’t stop with the products you sell — it’s reflected in every aspect of your business, including your store design.

Incorporating sustainable design in store isn’t only about showing customers how eco-friendly you are (though many consumers today do appreciate that). It’s also a way to meet your sustainability commitments while reinventing the customer journey and selling your products.

Here, we’ll take a look at the benefits of sustainable retail design as well as trends to watch and design elements to consider for your next store redesign or refresh.

Elements of Sustainability: People, Planet, and Profits

While most people only think of environmental factors when they hear the word “sustainability,” that only covers a portion of the concept. There are three main pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic, and social.

Environmental sustainability focuses on the planet. It includes sustainable practices like cutting emissions, using zero-waste packaging, ensuring waste is disposed of properly, and so on.

Economic sustainability involves conserving natural resources that spur economic production (a.k.a., profits). Reducing energy usage is one example of this.

Social sustainability focuses on the effects economic systems have on people. This can include working to eliminate poverty and hunger, combating inequality, sourcing products from fair-trade organizations, and so on.

In other words, sustainability isn’t just about using green products. It’s also about having a responsible supply chain: When you’re sourcing cheaper, you’re only sourcing fast, without considering how that choice affects people and the environment.

Having sustainable business practices means considering the effect your business has on the environment and on society, with the goal of having a positive impact on at least one of those areas.

Benefits of Sustainable Retail Design for Your Brand

Incorporating sustainable practices into your store design offers benefits not only for the environment, but for you as well. Here are just a few benefits of incorporating sustainable design elements into your store.

Financial Savings

Many sustainable store design elements have the potential to save you money. For example, elements like more efficient lighting (such as LEDs) and the use of more durable materials that last longer can save you money in the long run.

And who doesn’t want to save money?

Reaching New Customers and Building Consumer Brand Loyalty

Today’s consumer is looking to buy from brands whose values match their own…and their loyalty is getting harder to retain. This is especially true of younger generations of consumers.

Case in point: a 2018 survey found that 52% of Millennials and 48% of Gen Xers said it was important that their values align with the brands they like, compared with only 35% of baby boomers who felt the same way. And, so far, Gen Z looks to be following suit.

Statista shared some interesting trends among Gen Zers in their white paper, Gen Z and Sustainability. For example, they found that “nearly half of Gen Z respondents see themselves as sustainable consumers and approximately a third are willing to spend more on eco-friendly products.”

This paper also noted that brands that are highly rated for sustainability by Gen Z all incorporate the concept of sustainability into their key messaging and brand identity. In essence, if you want to be known as a sustainable brand, Gen Z consumers expect to see that concept woven into your brand vision and messaging.

For younger consumers, the environment is top priority, and there is increasing demand from consumers for businesses and brands to embrace all aspects of sustainability. Sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have: it’s a must-have…and a key way to attract younger generations of consumers and drive long-term brand loyalty.

More Time In-Store (and Increased Sales)

The more time a customer spends in your store, the more likely they will be to buy. Creating an inviting and memorable in-store experience is foundational to increasing time in-store.

Including natural materials like wood, stone, and bamboo in your store’s design helps create a warm, welcoming atmosphere that is also more sustainable. Taking it a step further, adding biophilic design elements like plants and water features into your space will not only improve visual appeal, but also create a calming, relaxing environment that customers want to spend time in.

Sustainable Store Design Trends To Watch

Traditional retail spaces can be extremely material hungry. Sustainable design elements help curb some of that waste. Here are a few sustainable retail design trends to consider for your next store refresh.

Sustainable Graphics and Signage

From eco-friendly inks to signage that can be reused or repurposed, sustainable signage and graphics is one easy way to incorporate more sustainable elements into your store.

Eco-friendly inks emit fewer volatile organic compounds into the air than traditional petroleum-based inks, leading to less air pollution. Among the eco-friendly ink options on the market are algae-based, soy- or vegetable-based, water-based, and UV inks.

You can also find signage made of recycled or biodegradable materials, such as wood and recycled acrylic. LED-lit signage is becoming more commonplace as well. With greater energy efficiency than neon, LED is long lasting, doesn’t emit any UV or heat, and is low voltage.

Modular or Otherwise Reusable Fixtures

Opting for reusable fixtures is another great way to increase sustainability while also saving you some money in the long run.

Made to be reusable, modular fixtures offer greater flexibility and endless possibilities for your store’s design. This means when it’s time to refresh your displays, you can simply repurpose the fixtures you already have, rather than bringing in new ones. Fixtures that are reusable and interchangeable mean maximum use and minimal waste.

In addition, some fixture companies now offer fixture repair or refurbishment, allowing you to continue using existing fixtures longer.

Sustainable Materials

Long-lasting, renewable, recyclable, and ethically-sourced is the name of the game when it comes to furnishing your store. This goes for everything from floor coverings to modular displays to furniture.

When it comes to materials, look for eco-friendly options like recycled foam, sustainable timber, reclaimed wood or brick, hemp, bamboo, natural stone, and recycled acrylic. Another material increasing in popularity is Shou Sugi Ban — a Japanese wood with a burnt finish that is bug-proof, doesn’t need to be stained, and is absolutely beautiful.

For flooring, some sustainable options are terrazzo floor slabs, brick, and recycled concrete (produced from construction waste). PVC or vinyl floor coverings can also be recycled when they’re no longer in use.

As an added bonus, opting for more natural materials in your store design is not only more sustainable, it also creates a more aesthetically pleasing, welcoming atmosphere for customers. It’s a win-win.

Miller Wittman Can Help You Fulfill Your Sustainability Commitments

At Miller Wittman, our entire portfolio is made up of retail environments that are intended to last.

We have worked diligently to elevate the categories we work in to move past the old throwaway culture of design and toward greater sustainability. It’s a work of constant evolution: we’re always looking for ways to help our clients fulfill their sustainability commitments through retail design.

If you’d like to explore the concept of meeting your sustainability goals through sustainable retail design, our team is here to help. Contact us to learn more.