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Breaking Barriers: Retail’s Natural (R)evolution

By: Sara Mason
Posted: February 27, 2009, from the March 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

Aveda’s spa retail environment strives to create added value at multiple stages of the customer journey.

  • Consumers are numb to sales, and are looking at other ways value is added.
  • Finding natural personal care has been a barrier to trial. Growth of mass-market outlets will help break down this barrier.
  • A growing number of niche brands are opening retail locations as a way to stand apart.
  • Without official regulation or an industry-wide definition of “natural” that is clear and unwavering, consumers may look past the label to the retailer as the gatekeeper.

What was originally a niche category has found a place in beauty aisles in almost every market, and industry insiders predict that natural and organic cosmetics will hold up well in 2009, even if they do not enjoy the dramatic sales growth of previous years.

Statistics from Organic Monitor published late in 2008 valued the global organic and naturals market at $7 billion, and forecast that it would surpass the $10 billion mark by the end of the decade. Despite the current economic climate, consumers are unlikely to give up their commitment to organic products just to save a few pennies, according to Amarjit Sahota of Organic Monitor.

Consumers are beginning to make long-term, realistic changes to their lifestyles. They feel a huge responsibility to both the planet and to themselves. Consumers now include their own personal health as a microcosm and reflection of the health of the planet, stated the Natural Marketing Institute’s annual report. The mass consumption society as it was known is over. But this can be good news for the natural market. Increasingly, consumers’ values are resonating with companies that are able to fuse both a personal and planetary perspective into their brands. Aveda has found that 68% of consumers will remain loyal to a company that has a social and environmental commitment. This is a growing trend in which consumers are “voting with their dollars,” and supporting brands whose values resonate with their own.

Consumers of organic products are very information-focused, and want to know what is in the products and behind the company. “Everything that leads to providing more information should ensure the success of the brand,” said Emmanuel Rey, Aveda’s general sales manager, North America. Today’s information technologies provide consumers with tremendous insight into how corporations do business, how the product is manufactured and the potential environmental consequences of the manufacturing process. For nearly 30 years, Aveda’s transparent business model has allowed consumers to trace its path of environmental responsibility. The brand’s continued accumulation of environmental victories alongside impressive growth in sales and profit are living proof of this philosophy—and the strength of the company’s mission.

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