Green Days

European Perspective Forget tough retail sales, one of retailers' major concerns this month seems to be the problem area of plastic bags. The UK government has been hinting for some time that it might look at taxing retail

April 6, 2018

European Perspective

Forget tough retail sales, one of retailers' major concerns this month seems to be the problem area of plastic bags. The UK government has been hinting for some time that it might look at taxing retail plastic bags if the industry did not take action itself—and in the Budget speech at the end of March it was brought up as a subject for potential taxation. So it was no surprise that in the weeks running up to the Budget, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, and IKEA all announced that they would start charging customers for plastic bags.

And this is not just an issue for the UK. China is banning plastic shopping bags in June this year; Ireland introduced a tax on plastic bags in 2002 and usage has dropped by 90 percent—and in 2007 the tax was upped to •0.22 cents. France and Germany both have return schemes and, state-by-state, the United States is also seeing local campaigns aimed at regulating and reducing the use of plastic bags.

This is no trivial matter—and it isn't just the environment that benefits

when retailers take unilateral action. The green credentials of retailers are of more and more consequence to shoppers. Report after consumer report has emphasized this as an area that shoppers want to see developed as they say that corporate social responsibility does influence their purchasing habits.

So what about toys? Much of the emphasis around toys has been on safety issues over the past year, and new European Regulations currently in consultation focus on chemical levels and the use of toys with food. A quick look at the Internet shows many sites encouraging consumers to extend the lives of toys by giving them away to other children, rather than seeing them in landfill sites. Wooden toys have obvious green benefits, but much licensed toy product is made from plastics.

When I asked a licensor what the issues were for the toy industry, other than safety, I was told that while the green agenda was something that needed to be addressed, they had not seen much evidence of that yet.

A Life of Luxury

The UK's department store sector operating at the premium and luxury ends of the market—Selfridges, Harrods, Harvey Nichols—recorded market share growth of more than 11 percent in 2007 compared with 2006, according to market research firm Verdict. And 2006 was itself up by almost 15 percent on the previous year.

Why? According to Verdict, it's a result of "creating a virtuous circle" of investment in the stores leading to an environment that meets the aspirational ethos of the brands they stock. As a significant level of department store sales come from brand licensed product, this is great news for the licensing industry—particularly at the top end.

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