As more and more communities and countries pass a ban on single use plastic bags – over 50 so far in California alone – high-end small retailers find themselves placed in sometimes awkward positions. Charging top prices for luxury products such as fine jewelry, the thought of adding a 5 or 10 cent fee because a customer doesn’t have a reusable bag for their purchase seems ludicrous.
Case in point is a story last fall of a jeweler in Aptos, California (one of this writer’s favorite towns) who sells fine jewelry for thousands of dollars and, because of a local law, must charge customers 10 cents for a shopping bag to carry their precious gems home in. As in many other California towns, grocery stores, pharmacies and other retailers are no longer allowed to use plastic shopping bags and must charge customers for paper ones.
“I won’t ask 10 cents for a bag when somebody spends $10,000. That’s petty,” said Bill Hoffman, owner of Aptos Jewelers, who asked the county to exempt him from the 10-cent rule, which went into effect in March. The rule does not allow retailers to give away bags and build the charge into prices.
Tim Goncharoff, a Santa Cruz County official who wrote the rule, said Mr. Hoffman’s request for exemption had been denied on the grounds that complying would not create a hardship and that many other businesses had found a way to meet the requirement. Retailers risk a warning and then a fine of up to $500 if they don’t comply.
Mr. Goncharoff said the rules were intended to make people think about the wastefulness of single-use products.
Although the plastic industry is fighting back against the ban, some retailers are embracing it, using a little creativity to turn lemons into lemonade.
Putting business logos on promotional items has long been a solid business practice. Companies such as Factory Direct Promos offer a variety of stylish reusable bags that easily could fill the growing need by retailers and help them strut their stuff in an ever-so-green fashion. It’s well-known that change can be distressing, particularly when something as long-standing and tried-and-true as giving customers shopping bags is challenged. But disgruntled retailers – and the plastics industry itself – seems to be missing the real opportunity of this green trend.
With change comes opportunity and in retail, where cultural change is moving steadily away from plastic to reusable, retailers would do well to remember that since customers vote with their dollars, give them something they’ll appreciate. A stylish reusable shopping bag with a cool looking business logo on it will not only encourage customers to reuse the bag, it could as easily encourage them to be regular clientele.
It seems only logical for retailers to embrace a change that could bring them repeat business, don’t you think?