Taking a stand

More and more retailers are committed to reducing their carbon footprints, tackling the waste generated by point-of-sale activity as well as using environmentally friendly packaging. Matthew Valentine suggests that budgets for displays could actually rise as companies chase the Green pound

CONCERN for the environment may start with consumers and be filtered through brands and retailers, but it is having a major impact on the design and manufacture of in-store displays. In fact, point-of-purchase consultancies could be forgiven for thinking that, when it comes to being Green, the buck stops with them.

The sheer volume of displays produced means that the PoP sector is a prime candidate for making a difference by reducing the amount of material wasted or sent to landfill. Two main design strategies are being employed to meet this goal: using better design and materials to reduce waste, and reducing the amount of PoP thrown away unused by improving compliance levels when it comes to installation. ‘There’s a push from big, blue chip clients to go Green, to use Greener materials, to provide more recyclable displays,’ says Mark Shaw, chief executive of Bezier, which supplies units to companies like Asda, Argos, Boots and KFC.

High profile retailers like Tesco and Marks & Spencer have stated publicly that they plan to bring down their carbon footprints and eliminate waste sent to landfill, setting challenging deadlines for themselves. Suppliers must all play a part in this.

Some design changes are small. Bezier client Ambre Solaire, for example, opted to use card trays to hold product in its freestanding display units, instead of the vacuum-formed plastic that has gradually become the standard option. Larger and more substantial displays are often built around a metal frame, and some groups now make the effort to reuse these for subsequent campaigns for a client rather than ditching the whole unit.

That technique may now be applied to smaller, temporary units. Jules Smith, director of Bezier-owned creative group Bluetouch, says, ‘We’re looking at using a more robust base. There could be a generic frame for freestanding display units or dumpbins, which could be reused or redressed. It could be shared between clients and we would encourage that.’ The units could be ‘owned’ and retained by retail chains, she suggests, rather than disposed of after campaigns.

Such an initiative would be tied in with a more sensitive choice of materials to aid recyclability. ‘The first thing we do is to think about the kind of substrates we’ll be using,’ says Smith. ‘We look at products that are less bleached and we seek out organic adhesives, though these are few and far between. We have our production people looking at water-soluble and vegetable inks, though some of the costs are astronomical.’ More complicated displays can offer greater scope for environmental economies. ‘Lighting systems and bulbs last longer these days. We urge people to spend more and use the latest LEDs, as they are far more efficient,’ says James Haggas, chief executive of PoP group Valley. Recent designs the group has supplied, to highlight products like Nestlé Purina and the Microsoft Xbox 360 games console, have used such low-voltage lighting technology. ‘It’s a case of pre-planning,’ says Haggas. ‘They use a lot less energy. Morally, we feel we should be advising people. Wherever we can, we steer clients to the most environmentally friendly option, and we include information on that when we’re pitching.’ As well as less power-hungry lighting, the company uses recycled or recyclable card and polypropylene whenever possible.

In the past, many brands and retailers have arguably paid lip service to Green ideals. Now, fewer are prepared to risk the same tactic for fear of being caught out. One result may be a greater willingness to increase PoP budgets to allow greater use of recycled cards and plastics. This may not be as painful to clients as it sounds: greater concentration on efficiency and lower use of energy may offset the costs of more expensive materials, which will themselves become less expensive as more companies use them.

Commitments by big brands may hasten that fall in costs. ‘L’Oréal is stipulating recyclable materials,’ says Smith. ‘Those economies of scale will come through.

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