Sleigh it ain’t so! Shoppers ditch sustainability for bargains this festive season


Manhattan Associates Inc. has announced the findings of a new study on Britain’s sustainable shopping habits in the lead-up to Christmas.

At a time when consumer spending is typically high, the fallout from the cost-of-living crisis has revealed that low costs are trumping both sustainability considerations and convenient deliveries and returns, indicating that cost will be paramount for more shoppers this holiday season.

Shopping Sustainably 

The survey conducted by YouGov found that 32% of Brits aren’t actively looking for sustainable products or brands when shopping online. This behaviour makes it clear that shoppers are now prioritising their pockets (even more so than shopping with brands who provide convenient deliveries and returns), proving that economic factors play a significant role when it comes to sentiments around sustainability: “The golden quarter and holiday season is well underway but clearly the state of the economy is having an effect on customer behaviour – unfortunately, it looks as if cost is trumping sustainability just now,” commented Craig Summers, Managing Director UKI, MEA & Nordics at Manhattan Associates. 

However, outside of the festive season, the data revealed that shoppers are still concerned with sustainability as a broader topic, and that there are growing consumer expectations for businesses to be greener. To help achieve this, customers are willing to make some sacrifices. The research found that: 

  • Almost two-thirds (64%) of Brits believe it is important for businesses to offer sustainable packaging
  • Over half (53%) expect a sustainable product lifecycle, with returned products being actively recycled and reused
  • Over half (56%) are also willing to wait to receive multiple parcels in one delivery to cut down on carbon emissions 

Retailer Requirements 

Brands must find the right balance between providing customers with sustainability and affordability. Redesigning products to take into account sustainability (at the beginning of the design process), ensuring items can be recycled more easily and using more environmentally friendly materials at the outset of production are a vital first step and essential for any brand now facing increased regulatory scrutiny of green claims. On top of this, however, finding ways to decarbonise the supply chains that deliver products will be equally important: rethinking make-or-buy decisions and limiting the need for long-range logistics, setting procurement standards for suppliers and improving visibility across networks will result in a more sustainable retail industry overall.  

“This year has been tough for retailers and consumers across the board. From the domestic cost-of-living crisis – magnified by inflation and higher interest rates – to an increasingly fractured macroeconomic environment, 2023 has proved challenging for retailers and consumers alike. 

“While inflation is beginning to ease, the road to recovery will not happen overnight. It perhaps isn’t surprising that customers are prioritising costs above all other aspects right now, especially as we approach Christmas, but hopefully we will see greener shoots of recovery for the economy, and also consumer impetus for sustainability, return in the spring,” concluded Summers. 

Survey Methodology 

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2066 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th - 15th November 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

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  Ordered Online, Delivered Sustainably: The Future of Green Shopping

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