Zero waste shops are specially designed grocers that allow customers to buy essential items from food to even household items, without plastic packaging. They’re a popular grocer type in large cities, as customers can not only help make their home eco-friendlier by buying from them, but they can also buy in bulk to enjoy greater savings and also minimize the time spent shopping for essentials outright.
With a rise in eco-consciousness, a push towards global sustainability, and a failure of main grocery chains to adapt to customers’ needs, the demand for zero-waste grocers is only growing. Suppose you’re passionate about the environment, about great food and ingredients, and want to put those interests together into one thriving business venture. In that case, a zero-waste store is a perfect way to do it.
What Is Zero Waste?
Zero waste simply means that there is no packaging that needs to be thrown out. Most zero-waste stores encourage customers to bring their own containers and bags, no matter what they look like, to take the bulk product home with them.
Purchases are made by weight. With this in mind, new containers will need to be weighed when the customer comes inside, and the weight will need to be written somewhere on the container. This way, when the container with the product in it is weighed, you can then subtract the container from the equation.
Zero waste stores also sell plastic-free goods and other sustainable brands, making them an excellent eco-one-stop shop.
What Type of Zero-Waste Shops Can You Open?
There are so many different shops and businesses that can adopt at least a partial zero-waste approach with great success. In some cases, you may need to add to your existing business model. If you cannot entirely remove yourself from plastic packaging, for example, you may be able to offer a different approach with circularity in mind. A hardware store, for example, can rent staple tools to DIYers. This is an excellent approach that can help keep money in your store, especially when you see a lot of customers going to online competitors that have lower operating costs than yourself.
Most people will happily buy essentials and tools once they know how useful they are as well, so you can see the rental model as a great way to advertise the products. You can even offer discounts on your rented range if customers want to stop renting and instead buy it.
When it comes to traditional “Zero Waste”, of course, you’ll be primarily looking at grocers, general stores, and bulk food stores. These have become increasingly popular, not only as people are looking to be more eco-conscious, but also space conscious. Buying your essentials in boxes (particularly dry goods) fills up your pantry space very quickly, while buying your own containers and refilling them helps save space and money.
The prevalence of plastic in products has also led to a rise in interest in plastic-free essentials, which in turn, has given space for small independent brands to make their mark. Selling these products are zero-waste bulk stores and general stores.
Find Trustworthy Suppliers
The secret to operating a successful zero-waste store is with the supplier. While you may not be able to avoid the fact that your products get shipped with plastic involved, buying in bulk from a supplier minimizes the plastic used considerably. As a business, you’ll also have greater access to special recycling programs in your area. A lot of plastic, for example, cannot be recycled on consumer networks and must be driven to a special processing plant.
When it comes to zero-waste, wholesale and bulk suppliers should be your go-to. If you must rip apart individually sized packages to then sell them in bulk, you’ve failed. It’s also not necessary, with top quality suppliers, like Olam Spices, offering box and crate-sized dry goods.
The best part of buying in bulk this way is that it helps keep your costs as low as possible as well, which is essential for independent stores.
Encourage Loyalty in Customers
There are a few issues with zero waste that can make it difficult. The fact is, for a zero-waste store to be effective, shoppers need to be prepared. This means they need to bring their own containers and bags. What happens if someone spontaneously pops into your store and doesn’t have what they need to buy your food in bulk?
While, in the past, bulk food stores turned to plastic bags, that’s not an option for a brand with a zero-waste promise. The good news is that there are many options you can use to build on loyalty and establish a community.
You could, for example, encourage customers to bring in unused containers. Wash them out, pre-weigh them, and then offer them as a free solution for customers without the necessary package. You can also sell premium containers that look great on a shelf, to boost profits.
When it comes to loyalty you need to think of how you can keep bringing customers into your store, or spending more online. Partner with other independent brands, so you can offer a unique range of products that cannot be found in any big chain store, and you’ll give customers more reasons to visit either online or in-store.
Make Shopping Easier
Another great way to encourage loyalty is to offer services along with your products. You can have customers create an account with your business online, for example, and then put together a virtual cart that you put together on their behalf, so they can quickly pick up their order, pay for it, and then be on their way. As you expand as a company, you can even use a bike or electric vehicle delivery service to get these orders directly to your customers.
It’s a good idea to have an offline version of this service as well. You could have customers complete a form and then put together a weekly package for pickup, for example. This is a great way to engage with older populations that aren’t as comfortable with technology.