Don’t expect plaudits from shoppers for being green. They don’t care.

Marks and Spencer, Simply Food

Marks and Spencer, Simply Food

So Marks & Spencer opened another store that will help to save the planet on Thursday. Well actually, it won’t as what another store does is add to the sum total of emissions, whichever way you cut it, although this one will do so in a manner markedly less noxious than if M&S had not headed down the Plan A route. The store was a Simply Food and it was chock-full of the sort of things that we’ve all heard about that are capable of saving energy, as well as reusing materials that have already seen service elsewhere

Online and in print, the opening got fairly extensive coverage and the focus seemed almost entirely preoccupied with the percentage of energy saved and how the wood in the store was Forest Stewardship Council certified. This seems an almost entirely fatuous waste of journalistic effort as the reality is that most of the shoppers who filled the car park couldn’t care less whether the store is more eco-friendly or not (although the 5p per plastic bag continues to hit home…and is a good thing). The point is, it looked appealing and while this may sound almost entirely superficial - and it is - it really does matter.

Shopping is about buying into a dream. Most products are available in more than one place, so the notion that shoppers will flock to your store just because you happen to have an appropriate range may not stand up to close scrutiny. Online and on the high street, it is the in-store environment that will make probably be one of the major deal clinchers that determines whether or not you head into a store.

Accept this premise, then whether a store happens to be green on not, if it looks poor and apologetic then people will head elsewhere. Shoppers, in short, will offer few plaudits for a store that happens to be providing savings on energy consumption. After all, isn’t one of the long-term aims of stores of this kind to save the retailer money in a world where commodity prices are forever on the rise?

This new Simply Food store is first and foremost the sort of place you’d like to shop in and the fact that it is also green is a positive that will be viewed by most in parentheses. Green is a side issue for shoppers - good shops are still what’s required and if they happen to be green, then so much the better…for all of us. A full review on Friday, by the way.