A Greener Holiday As Retailers Embrace 'Lefteousness'

With consumer interest in environmental issues still surging, experts are predicting that green gifts will be among the season's hot tickets.

PriceGrabber.com, a leading shopping site, says that 71% of those responding to its recent holiday survey say it is important to them to purchase eco-friendly products this holiday season, says Ron LaPierre, president of the Los Angeles-based company.

"There's been so much press about the green movement," he says, "and people are starting to look for ways they can easily start integrating it into their shopping." The company launched its Shop Green category in June to capitalize on the trend, and "it's seen solid growth month to month."

Efforts like PriceGrabber's Shop Green are an example of how savvy marketers are keeping one step ahead of the green wave, some experts say. "Even though green gifts and green products are hot right now, the flame of consumer interest burns out very quickly," says Robbie Blinkoff, a consumer anthropologist and managing director of Context-Based Research Group in Baltimore. "Right now, with all the interest in global warming, there's a lot of energy. Smart marketers need to be not righteous, but 'lefteous'," he says, "and recognize that consumers want to be taken to the next level."



For retailers, he says, that means having a whole portfolio of green products, not just one or two. And for marketers, "that means saying, 'Great, I'm glad you bought our organic coffee because of health concerns. Now, let's talk about shade-grown coffee, and when you're ready to hear more, we can talk about fair-trade coffee.' Consumers recognize that ecosystems are complex, but they respond to products that make the education simple," he says. "They really are comfortable with that kind of 'simplexity'."

Examples include Estee Lauder's* Aveda, which first educated its consumers primarily about the impact its products had on the environment, and now routinely talks to them about the impact of packaging. "We've also done some work with Nike, which is exploring that territory with its Considered line of environmentally conscious footwear and apparel. "These marketers are recognizing that to be a successful green marketer, you have to have a long range plan, a way to say, 'Here, let me tell you more'."

The green gift trend, he says, is a perfect example of the depth of consumer interest. "This is a way for people to say, 'I care so much for you that I'm not just giving you any present, but one that's connected to much bigger issues'."

Certainly, that will include plenty of consumer products. At PriceGrabbers.com, "an energy-saving showerhead is in first place, closely followed by a silk evening wrap, in terms of consumer searches," says LaPierre.

At Co-Op America, there are plenty of organic chocolate options. Aveda's Nepal Collection helps save forests and build a community. But more socially conscious gifts are expected to have a good year, as well. Co-Op American World Vision, for example, is selling a $15 share in an alpaca, $17 for hybrid or drought-resistant seeds, or 10 fruit trees for $60.

*Editor's note: This article was amended post-publication.

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