When you think of green initiatives in retail, you may be drawn to thinking about issues such carrier bag policies and eco-friendly packaging but the truth is it's no longer enough to just limit these initiatives to inside the store. Now it's time to go outside
It's a well-known fact that retailers are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. The reality of retail in the modern age is that it's a crowded, bustling place to operate in, often with intense pressures to win on price, positioning or to offer the most appealing promotions. There is also pressure to operate ethically and responsibly and customers are increasingly demanding transparent communications from retailers to show they are doing exactly what they claim to be doing.
It's fair to say that most retailers are likely to have pretty standardised approaches for being 'green', but in an industry where most tactics become part of a 'me too' strategy, there is little room to stand out and be different, innovative and forward thinking. There may be an answer though
The latest craze to hit retailers looking to tap into green initiatives is the introduction of electric vehicle charge points in customer car parks. Retailers like IKEA and Sainsbury's have already jumped on the EV bandwagon and with a huge influx of electric vehicles primed to hit the market in 2012, it is set to be an area of intense growth in coming months.
The benefits for retailers are plenty. Not only are there generous subsidies for the purchase and installation of charge points but they also work to enhance the shopping experience and encourage longer customer stays. Most EV drivers use public charge points as a battery 'top up', with stays on average of 62 minutes. This means that retailers have the potential to encourage these customers to spend longer browsing (and therefore, potentially spending!) in store. Combine this with the publicity potential of installing public charge points for use by customers and suddenly, this becomes a very attractive, useful and cost effective green strategy.
There has already been an impressive take up in the retail sector for public electric vehicle charge bays, but there is still potential for rapid growth. Currently, only 4% of charge points under the 'Source London' initiative are located in retail car parks, but it was the IKEA store in North London which topped the charts in August as the most used charge point in the whole Source London network. It's clear the demand is there and it's rising.
Now, I'm fully aware that there are concerns around the limits on current electric vehicle technology. Many will be aware of the debate raised by Top Gear earlier this year with regards to the length of time it takes to charge an electric vehicle. For the record, the latest chargepoint technology enables a full charge in just three hours, but my view on this is that this is an emerging sector and so there will invariably always been room for improvement.
As technology advances, so will the performance of electric vehicles. For example, our new 'fast charge' POD points can provide 30 miles of additional driving in just an hour, which is the fastest charge currently available on the public network. The success of electric vehicles is more about a change in mindset than a technology issue. It's an inevitable change though and I'm excited when I think about where we'll be in 5 years' time in terms of EV charging, when we consider how far we come already.
About the Author
Erik Fairbairn is the CEO of POD Point, the UK's leading provider of electric vehicle software and hardware.