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Green proves sustainable, even in economic downturn


The recession has had an impact on sustainability, with such product categories as organic food taking a hit as consumers reevaluate their spending. But not only is it an underlying concern that will reemerge with recovery, it also represents an opportunity in the economic downturn to connect with committed consumers and satisfy those concerned but financially constrained customers by providing products that save money and the environment.

The green store still is the marketplace of the future, and there are those retailers who have been moving forward with environmental initiatives despite the economic times.

Certainly, CVS is committed to going forward in the recession. Centering efforts around energy-saving light bulbs is helping the company ground its program in areas that help consumers cut costs as they go greener, yet it has built from there to establish a comprehensive presentation that makes a statement to shoppers.

“We carry Energy Star CFL bulbs, which are extremely popular among our customers,” said CVS spokeswoman Joanne Dwyer. “In addition, we recently launched a line of paper products and aromatic room mists called Earth Essentials to satisfy the growing demand for practical, green household products. Earth Essentials are affordably priced, eco-friendly products manufactured using an ecologically aware process to preserve the earth’s natural resources while helping customers integrate ecologically responsible practices into their everyday lives.”

The Earth Essentials product line includes natural oils Earth Essentials aromatic room mists, fully biodegradable Sugarcane bowls and plates, Greenpeace-recommended recycled fiber Earth Essentials paper towels and napkins and recycled fiber Earth Essentials bath tissue. Prices range from $3.99 to $8.99.

Today, keeping things inexpensive is important, but certainly it is not the only consideration with sustainable products. In the compact florescent light bulb category, according to IRI, private labels are holding their own, essentially flat in dollar terms and down about 8% in units, while most other products are declining.

A notable exception is the General Electric Energy Smart line, one that has been enhanced by a technologically advanced bulb that’s conveniently shaped like an incandescent and designed to provide a warmer radiance more in line with traditional lighting. Launched as a 15-watt equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent at Target in December, it has since rolled to major mass merchants. A 9-watt, 40-watt equivalent, and a 20-watt, 75-watt equivalent, are rolling out this summer.

Operational initiatives also can enhance a retailer’s green credentials. Walgreens is involved in recycling batteries in two cities—Chicago and San Francisco. In either city, consumers can drop off a used battery at the company’s stores.

“In the Bay [area], it’s been going on for more than six years and started after the Department of the Environment approached us to see if we’d be a drop-off site,” said Walgreens spokeswoman Vivika Vergara. “Now, all customers have to do is bring it to one of our service clerks at the register, and they will take it.”

Walgreens backs its operational initiatives with environmentally and economically friendly merchandising. Among other products, it offers private-label compact fluorescent bulbs. In a New York area store, it offered a CFL two-pack at $6.49 in a display that included branded single bulbs for $5.49, keeping the ring up but offering a multiple-unit bargain for the customer.

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