Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Would this label sway your buying decision?

July 24, 2009

This is a picture of a label that might one day adorn the merchandise hanging on a rack at Wal-Mart. wmtlabel2

The final look and feel of the label could change – maybe it would have a number rating instead of a sliding scale.

But Wal-Mart said the idea is to give shoppers a means of calculating the environmental and social cost of making, packing and selling all of the items in its stores.

The labels could take a while to develop — maybe five to ten years — so they wouldn’t necessarily be aimed at the shopper in its stores today.

But they could be a way for the retailer to win the business of the next generation. High school and college students of today may not yet have much money to spend now. But once they start earning a paycheck, according to Wal-Mart, they intend to spend it at retailers that care about the environment.

“This is the No. 1 issue on college campuses today, regardless of what happens with the economy, because they know this is their future,” Chief Merchandising Officer John Fleming said on a webcast when Wal-Mart announced the labels.

There is a lot of work that will need to take place before the label can move from an idea to a reality. And what consumers say they intend to do and what they actually choose to do with their dollars can often diverge. But it will be interesting to see, if the labels do come to fruition, how much shoppers will care and whether a higher green rating is enough to convince them to pay what could be a higher price.

Wal-Mart says it would like to see other retailers embrace the idea and also use such labels. But if they don’t, will Wal-Mart’s rating system on its merchandise be trusted?

(Photo: Copy of a slide included in Wal-Mart’s presentation on developing a sustainability index)


Great idea, now stop talking and make it reality!


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