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Retailing Is One Of The Most Diverse Marketing Essay

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Retailing is one of the most diverse and dynamic sectors within advanced capitalist
societies offering a seemingly ever-increasing range of goods and services to
consumers. (Jones, Hillier, Comfort, & Eastwood, 2005) This dominance and power
makes it important for us to question the role that such significant industrial players
adopt, concerning global issues such as sustainability. It is necessary to further
evaluate the actions taken by the relatively small number of large retailers who have
aggressively pursued strategies to increase their sales, their market share and their
profits (Jones, Hillier, Comfort, & Eastwood, 2005) and analyse how they intend to
incorporate sustainability within these capitalist based strategies.
Sustainability and sustainable futures are referred to as endpoints of a process
called sustainable development byDunphy (2000). According to the World
Commission on Environment and Development (1987), this is development, which
meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future
generations to meet their own needs. Therefore, the challenge for retailers is to
sustainably develop through their business activities and operations. From a
marketing perspective, retailers are keen to promote their sustainable actions and
corporate social responsibility (CSR) as there are a number of associated benefits
according to Bevan et al (2004), including better financial performance and an
improved relationship with customers.

As well as many benefits pulling retailers towards adopting a sustainable approach,

there are also a number of drivers pushing retailers. A major influential figure for
retailers is the government, which can apply pressure or can utilise legislation,
encouraging action from retailers. For example, in 2008 studies suggested around
13 billion plastic bags are given out free to UK shoppers every year and take 1,000
years to decay. (TimesOnline, 2008) As this is by no stretch of the imagination
sustainable', Gordon Brown put pressure upon supermarkets to change this and
stated that if Government compulsion is needed to make the change, we will take
the necessary steps to take action (TimesOnline, 2008).

Due to the growing public awareness of the often controversial economic, social and
environmental impacts of [major food retailers'] activities, (Jones, Comfort, &
Hillier, 2007) retailers have been forced to respond. Many retailers are now aiming
to promote their CSR credentials and their commitment to CSR (Jones, Comfort, &
Hillier, 2007) . Lance Moir (2001) describes CSR as the commitment of a company,
ensuring their actions are ethical in terms of economic and social development. CSR
is a prominent feature in the strategies of the top 20 UK retailers, with over 12 of the
top 20 found to be associated with all three aspects of CSR: environmental, social
and economic concerns according to a study where each retailer was placed alongside
CSR in a Google search (Comfort, Hillier, Eastwood, & Jones, 2005). One company
that performed poorly in the Comfort et al (2005) investigation was Morrisons, who
were only linked with the social factor. After performing the search again, it was
evident that Morrisons had progressed and are now associated with all three key
elements of CSR (Google, 2009).
Morrisons are one the four main players who have collectively acquired a staggering
75% share of the grocery market (Shaw, 2006), giving each retailer a significant
amount of power. According to views such as that of legitimacy theory (Moir,
2001), retailers should use this power in a responsible manner.
Today we're making a difference for tomorrow (Morrisons, 2009) is the message
promoting Morrisons' quest to be (or to be seen as) a sustainable, socially
responsible company and is the central theme to their annual CSR report. In order to
ensure the success of Morrisons' strategy for sustainability, it must be effectively
promoted to be aligned with the needs of the green' consumer. Marketing and CSR
are not always viewed as compatible, for example, The Ethical Corporation (2005)
suggests they traditionally [sit] on opposite sides of the fence. There needs to be a
focus upon sustainable strategy, with emphasis on how the sustainability is
communicated to the target audience. Blomqvist and Posner (2004) appreciate
benefits can be generated from a collaboration between CSR and marketing, which
most companies do not take advantage of.
Although Morrisons are making headway in all areas of CSR - for example they are
one of the first companies to gain the Carbon Trust Standard, certifying genuine
cuts in carbon emissions (Morrisons, 2009) - they seem to be aware that consumers
are beginning to accept green' as the standard (Simms, 1992), especially
concerning such mainstream issues as carbon reduction. This has lead to Morrisons'
sustainable strategy revolving around fresh, locally sourced food and the sustainable
benefits attached.

In order to communicate their strategy for sustainability Morrisons opted for the
medium of television, and produced the Fresh choice for you' advertising campaign
which began in 2007; the same year they first produced their CSR report. The
advert's intention was to promote Morrisons as having a wider range of fresh food
made and prepared in-store than any other supermarket. The advert focused upon
Morrisons' connection with the sourcing and supply of fresh produce. The message is
delivered via a celebrity personality who is shown walking through farms, then
seamlessly into the store. Morrisons appear to have almost euphemised their
sustainable actions within this advert, to prevent too much information
overwhelm[ing] and even crippl[ing] decision-making of the consumer (Bishop &
Cho, Spring 2008). A simple message emphasising a strong connection with
suppliers allows connotations such as we support local farms'.

Alongside the television advertising campaign, Morrisons also promote the

publication of their CSR report, accessible online. This details specific sustainable
activities and helps to provide the greener' consumer with more detailed
information. For example, one outcome of Morrisons making and preparing most of
their fresh food, which isn't highlighted in the advert, is they have lowest levels of
food waste of any retailer. It is clear Morrisons are utilising separate channels of
communication to provide the customer with different levels of information
concerning their strategy for sustainability, which may not be the most successful
route. It may be more appropriate for this information to be effectively
communicated to all consumers, in order to effectively strengthen their market
In essence, Morrisons are segmenting their target audience in terms of their concern
for green activities. Grant (2008) highlights three different categories that
consumers fall into: dark green, light green and no-brainers. The dark green
consumer has a high degree of concern for green issues', through to no-brainers
who have little concern if effort is required. It can be argued that by employing this
particular strategy for sustainability Morrisons are satisfying the needs of their all
consumers, with the CSR report providing information satisfying dark green
consumers and the imposed reduction in carrier bags resulting in a 505 million
reduction since 2005 (Morrisons, 2009), to satisfy the no-brainers.
Although, it could be suggested Morrisons have failed to effectively deliver a
sustainable message throughout their stores. Within the Morrisons store there is

limited information available concerning sustainability, which includes a small From

my Farm' range of local produce boasting the grower's name and location attached.
This provides the customers with facts concerning a sustainable approach, but the
question posed by Bishop and Cho (Spring 2008) is, does it result in the purchase of
the product? 87 per cent of people say they are seriously concerned about the
environment, yet studies indicate that sustainability does not often factor in
purchasing decisions (Bishop & Cho, Spring 2008). Bishop & Cho (Spring 2008)
suggest that retailers such as Morrisons need to market their green attributes, whilst
simultaneously providing the customer with a reason to make the purchase by
creating moments in which the consumer can realise the importance of buying
locally, highlighting the benefits to both the farmer and consumer. Instead it would
appear Morrisons are aiming to build a congruent image between the brand and the
consumer (Bryne, Whitehead, & Breen, 2003) through celebrity endorsement. I
would suggest Morrisons should instead inform the consumer of positive reasons to
purchase sustainable products, such as how it will help the local economy in hard
times. As the public are constantly made aware by intense media coverage that the
UK economy is shrinking at its fastest rate for 50 years (TimesOnline, 2009), they
may see a greater incentive to purchase Morrisons locally sourced products. In doing
so I feel Morrisons will be able to achieve a more sustainable approach to marketing
After analysing Morrisons' strategy for sustainability from a marketing perspective, it
would appear they are successfully differentiating themselves from the market
through their approach. As competitors such as Asda and Tesco are currently heavily
focusing upon price, Morrisons are identifying themselves as a provider of fresh
locally sourced food and are even replicating a market street' in their stores.
Morrisons should consider that in order to gain a competitive advantage surrounding
sustainability and CSR, then integrating environmental perspectives into all aspects
of marketing planning, especially marketing strategies but also structures and
functions (Hansen and Juslin, 1999) is crucial. Therefore, if Morrisons intend to
separate themselves through their sustainability they will have to consider every
aspect of their operations, from encouraging employees to ride to work, to
encouraging suppliers to reduce packaging. With a catalogue of sustainable
considerations, Morrisons must remember that in order to get the desired outcome
and make the consumer purchase the product, they must align their strategy with the
needs of the consumer.


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