Eileen Fisher on sustainability being key to long-term customer loyalty


Customers care about fit and style, but sustainability is an important added bonus that leads to loyalty, said Amy Hall, VP of social consciousness at Eileen Fisher at NRF’s Big Show in New York yesterday.

“If it’s not beautiful and it doesn’t fit them well, we’re not going to make the sale,” adds Hall, who has been with the womenswear label for 25 years. For its clientele, finding out products are made with eco materials in ethical factories is the icing on the cake and helps them attach a much more long lasting value to the brand.

Hall was speaking on a panel about sustainability’s new surge in popularity alongside Eileen Mockus, president and CEO of sustainable home textiles brand Coyuchi and Jason Wachob, founder and CEO of wellness platform mindbodygreen. Mockus agrees that customers are still initially drawn to a great product, and if there is a good story attached to it, it creates a longer term relationship.

The panel also touched on the importance of helping customers create an emotional connection with environmental issues. Customers don’t respond emotionally to a big, abstract issue like climate change, for example, but rather operate from a ‘me first’ mentality, says Wachob. Showing how their consumption habits may impact other human beings down the supply chain, for example, can be much more effective, adds Hall.

Sustainability is having a moment because it not only creates very positive brand associations for the consumer, but from an innovation standpoint, it is leading the charge in the fashion industry. But there are plenty of pitfalls to this booming industry, the panel argues. Hall highlights the certification system, for example, wherein there is a lot of confusion and fraud, which she believes is leading to up to half of certifications being fake or inaccurate.

In an environment where a select group of players are making strides but a much larger group is simply making noise, it is important to know how to focus. Hall suggests that brands should start with one thing, such as changing how a product is shipped, and tick it off their list before working their way up. As consumers become increasingly informed on the issue, so will their demands on how every step of the journey can play an important part in ensuring a more sustainable future.

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