Are Shoppers Buying Less To Save The Planet This Christmas?

Founder and CEO of Where Does It Come From?, Writer, Speaker, and Consultant, Jo Salter has written us a post about some things she’s been noticing about buying ethically this Christmas, and some recommendations of ethical businesses if you’re still looking for that elusive Christmas gift for yourself or for anyine else!

Are Shoppers Buying Less To Save The Planet This Christmas?

(or is it just ethical businesses that are seeing a slump in sales….)

By Jo Salter, Where Does It Come From?

This is not a scientific study I know, but I’m hearing from many small, ethical businesses that Christmas sales this year are very sloooooow.  Since 2013 when I founded Where Does It Come From?, a social enterprise creating ‘Kind Clothes that Tell Tales, Christmas has been a key part of our retail planning.   Last Christmas, despite the horrendous 9 months that most people had experienced, Christmas sales were surprisingly good.   By ‘good’ I mean that some of the losses of 2020 were balanced out and, more importantly, it was a confidence boost to move forward into 2021 grateful that our community had our back.

But so far this Christmas is different. We’ve had far fewer Christmas sales this year compared to last, which is concerning.  Just as with other retail businesses, we rely on our pre-Christmas sales to hold us over the leaner first months of a new year.  A twitter chat with designer and eco-pal Masato Jones confirmed my suspicions – it’s not just us. Masato had sold one pair of socks all day in his Leeds shop.  Wondering if sales were down across the board I reached out to other smaller, ethical brands and was told the same – sales are surprisingly low. 

 Last Christmas people really did give us their hearts.  The pandemic brought an awareness of community and a willingness to value small, local businesses.  For some people a year with income but little to spend it on led them to spend thoughtfully, supporting their values and the businesses they wanted to still be there on the other side.  There was also a sense that Christmas would be something to celebrate – we’d missed our families and friends and looked forward to being together (although that didn’t work out quite as planned…). This year perhaps people are more cautious and probably less full of purse.

One reason for the change could be that people are enjoying being out and about for Christmas shopping, rather than mainly online as last year.  Fairtrade gift brand Ethiqana has booked up all weekends and many evenings to run stalls at artisan markets – founder Arshad Khalid said ‘the hard work is bringing in sales, which we need to tide us over the first months of next year.  The hope too is that people will return to us online’. 

Maybe for some the climate message has hit home – the need to buy less, waste less and gift differently. We won’t know official figures on spend until after Christmas – although anecdotal evidence (ie. Eyeballs on shoppers with bulging bags) does suggest that perhaps people have reverted to their pre-pandemic shopping habits. 

Buying less and choosing kindly is our suggestion – easing pressure on the planet and supporting organisations that strive for positive impacts.  Unfortunately for ethical businesses, which are generally small businesses too, the big brands have invested heavily in their marketing (and in some cases greenwashing…).  Their prices, packaging and delivery options make shopping easy and satisfying.  So long as you don’t think too much about how products are made, who made them and how soon they’ll end up in landfill then there’s nothing much to consider.  No one likes a killjoy (sorry, it’s me).

It’s been a tough couple of years for everyone – a global pandemic bringing us closer to nature, community and our emotional need for contact;  a growing awareness of a looming climate emergency which will impact us all unless we take action. Right now perhaps people understandably feel the need of a little joy and escapism.  For those of us running small and ethical businesses will just keep our fingers crossed for a last minute rush – that would be something to celebrate!

If you’re still looking for gifts for loved ones here are some suggestions…

Where Does It Come From? – Ethical Clothing with a story (men’s, women’s, children’s and accessories)

Hair Care – Kind2

Underwear – Y.O.U Underwear

Swimwear – Deacon and Blue

Jewellery – Yago Eco


Thanks to Jo for this piece, have a look at her website: Where Does It Come From? and take a listen to her podcast here.

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