“A sustainable store design not only helps enhance brand equity, it also helps build a loyal customer base,” Yaung told Inside Retail.
“Our stores tell the world who we are,” he said. “Whether it’s the first time someone sets foot in a The Body Shop store or the 1000th, we want them to know what we stand for: treating people and the planet with respect, and making outstanding products that bring the best of the natural world to them wherever they are.”
Shaping a store with the environment in mind is what The Body Shop has been doing for the past few months. On July 30 this year, the brand opened in Singapore an Activist Maker Workshop with a sustainable store design, its first in the country and the fifth in the world after the UK, Canada, Hong Kong and South Korea. Last weekend, the brand launched another activist store concept in Melbourne.
Inspired by artisan workshops, the new Body Shop Activist concept stores are fitted out with sustainable fixtures made from reclaimed wood and recycled plastics. The metal facades are constructed in eco-friendly aluminium, which require less energy production than other materials and can be recycled over and over again. Worktop surfaces are also made from 100 per cent recyclable materials.
Within the stores are Activism Corner spaces, where customers can learn about the campaigns and issues close to The Body Shop’s heart, including gender inequality and female homelessness and Amnesty International’s petition to Raise the Age of Criminal Responsibility in Australia. In Melbourne, young people interested in getting involved in social activism will also be invited to apply for a delegate position in the 2021 Youth Activist Series with Plan International Australia.
“As a brand, it’s our responsibility and commitment to the environment,” Yaung said. “We want to set an example and use our influence to educate customers so that everyone can do their part to protect and restore Mother Nature.”
Furniture store Ikea has embraced the concept of sustainable store design in recent years. Last year, the group opened its first eco-store in the UK and earlier this year, it announced it will open a second one in Vienna and Australia.
Elisabeth Dal-Bianco, communication operations manager at Ikea Austria, said the seven-storey building is currently under construction and is being planned to open at the end of August 2021.
The new sustainable store, designed by Querkraft Architekten, features a bookcase-style design with green façades and a green roof terrace with plenty of strolling space. A full-fledged Ikea store will be housed across five floors. The store’s design does not include a parking lot as it is targeting pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.
The building will include 160 trees which, according to Querkraft architect Jakob Dunkl, will have a clear, positive influence on the microclimate in the area, both in terms of temperature and humidity.
“The trees on the roof terrace will create a small oasis in the middle of the city,” Dunkl said.
Earlier this year, Ikea also opened its first zero-waste store in Poland called the House of Tomorrow, where “nothing goes to waste”. Coffee grounds are composted and used in fertiliser for plants. Paper is combined with seeds and used for crops, and plastic is reused for new applications, such as plant pots.
The cost of sustainable stores
According to Yaung, investing in sustainable store design can be costly, especially when a brand is ahead of the wave and better materials are not yet widely available.
“It does make it hard since a brand can effectively be literally paying the price for being more sustainable,” he explained. “However, we can, for example, simply reduce the amount of refits or changes we make to stores and re-use materials as many times as possible.”
“The main thing we try to do is not to think about these things in purely financial terms though. We need to think in terms of ‘cost’ to the planet or to people.”
Similarly, Malin Sennevall, Ingka Ikea spokesperson, said the furniture giant looks at the overall impact of the project and its positive effect on profit, people and the planet.
“When delivering our goals of being a circular business, we aim to look at the overall impact of the costs of this transformation,” Sennevall said. “Some costs will be high in the beginning, but will be lowered over time as new innovations are implemented, turning them into long term savings. Furthermore, there are efficiencies gained through refurbishment and remanufacturing, where product costs are lowered significantly by the reuse of already manufactured parts.”
Other major retailers have also invested in sustainable store design. Stella McCartney’s London flagship store, which opened last year, uses biodegradable mannequins which are 72 per cent made of sugarcane bioplastic. Meanwhile, its outposts are lined with recycled foam and cards and made from waste paper from the brand’s London office.
The design of Patagonia’s stores shows the company kept the planet in mind as they use sustainable construction methods and utilise reclaimed materials. The retailer’s store in Victoria, Canada features a range of wooden details throughout, from wall decorations to shelving units. The wood used in the store design was rescued from the Pacific Ocean and the local yacht club.