“The most sustainable building is the one not constructed, so how can we use the same space for different things?”
That was a comment from Josefina Lindblom, senior policy office responsible for sustainable buildings at the European Commission, talking earlier this year on a European Council of Shopping Places podcast.
She was reflecting on how the retail property industry can work towards becoming greener and ensure it minimises its impact on the natural world. Ensuring buildings have potential for a mixed use so once their original purpose changes it doesn’t need to be reconstructed can make “an enormous contribution” to reducing carbon emissions, she said.
Her points are pertinent in terms of the new Battersea Power Station shopping and leisure development in south London.
Clearly those building it in the 1940s were unlikely to be thinking “this will be a shopping centre one day” and lots of construction work has gone into reinventing the decommissioned coal-powered site, but much of the original Grade II-listed building has been repurposed and is an example of not developing a retail site from scratch.
To a certain extent, and in commercial construction terms, there is a positive environmental story in all this.
I went to visit it a week on from its opening to see the fruits of owner Battersea Power Station Development Company’s labour. And from a greener retailing perspective, there were some interesting things to document.
As I have done in London’s West End, Bath, Bluewater shopping centre, and Milan, I conducted my own tour around the site, highlighting how operators in the space are offering their customers the opportunity to make greener choices. I didn’t make it into every store and restaurant, but below are some examples of what I spotted.
Superdry and The Body Shop – the usual suspects
We’ve covered Superdry’s and The Body Shop’s in-store greener retailing initiatives in detail on the pages of Green Retail World, and they are both prominent features of these retailers’ Battersea stores.
As it tends to do, The Body Shop puts greener issues front and centre of its window displays, leaving no doubt in consumers’ minds that it is serious about pushing them towards more circular practices when it comes to their beauty regimes.
“Refill, reuse, repeat, repeat, repeat”, screams the window frontage found on the ground floor of the site.
An additional greener retailing initiative in Superdry was a central display of “Vintage Nike” products. Superdry said its has “curated and laundered” pre-loved T-shirts, hoodies, sweaters, and jackets.
The move is a nod to the continuing trend among shoppers for vintage items, and one-off collections, but it also highlights Superdry’s keenness to keep clothing in circulation for as long as possible via reuse and resale.
Something unique – Petit Pli
Earlier this year, Petit Pli picked up the 2022 European ‘Start-up of the Year’ in Amazon’s annual Innovation Awards recognising UK-based small business.
Petit Pli, which uses recycled water bottles to make its range of clothes that grow up to seven sizes to keep them in usage for longer and effectively grow in line with the children wearing them, was awarded a €100,000 grant by Amazon as a result of its Innovation Awards success.
— Ben Sillitoe (@BSillitoe) October 27, 2022
At Battersea Power Station, the until-now online-only brand has opened its first physical shopping space, showcasing its unique concept which has clearly been created with a sustainable fashion mindset. The clothing resembles an origami style, and can be unfolded as necessary to keep up with the growing children wearing it.
US-cosmetics brand Kiehl’s, which specialises in skin, hair, and body care products, has also secured a slot at Battersea Power Station, and brings with it several greener retailing offerings.
Its ‘Recycle and be Rewarded’ scheme has a prominent position within the store.
By bringing in full size empty Kiehl’s packaging, consumers can earn 15 points on their family rewards programme. With 120 points unlocking a £10 voucher for them to use against one full price item on their next purchase, there is a financial benefit to adopting greener behaviour.
Fashion brand Levi’s has put alterations and repairs at the heart of its Battersea Power Station store.
Around the centralised checkout are boards advertising free tailoring and repair on Levi’s jeans, with several sewing machines on site.
I checked in with staff and I was informed about a a ten-day wait for repairs, which shows it was a popular service with shoppers in the early days of the store opening its doors to the public.
Repairing rather than throwing away garments is clearly a more ecologically sound way for consumers to think about fashion, and Levi’s is one of several retailers in the UK ramping up its efforts to promote that type of thinking across society.
Another one of those fashion retailers is Uniqlo.
The Fast Retailing-owned business recently opened its first UK RE.UNIQLO Studio at its Regent Street flagship store in London, giving customers more opportunities to repair, recycle, and find ways of reusing their clothing. It has also brought this concept to Battersea.
There is a whole station dedicated to the studio on the lower floor of the Uniqlo shop at Battesea Power Station too, and as I entered there were a line of customers seeking advice and taking advantage of the service.
Moving around the centre, I spotted sports brand Adidas providing a whole touchscreen detailing the story behind how it uses recoved plastic in some of its products.
It was a bit of a side show, as opposed to being given a prominent place in the shop, but for those who have time to dwell, it provides a touchpoint to gather more information about Adidas’s product provenance.
The main focus was on the use of Parley Ocean Plastic in product development, which you can read more about here.
My favourite coffee pod company, Grind, also has a couple of vans on site.
I use the brand at home on subscription because the coffee pods are made with plant-based materials and can be included in local authority kerbside food waste collection bins.
The business has an eye-catching set-up on the top floor of the shopping complex, and it certainly made sure it took advantage of its presence there to promote its green credentials.
Quite a cool neon vibe going on too!
Overall, I highly recommend a trip to Battersea Power Station’s new retail and leisure space if you get the chance. It’s such an iconic building, and the team behind the development have neatly blended modernity with tradition.
And when you do visit, why not take your empty beauty bottles, no-longer-needed garments, and jeans that need fixing. Embrace retail’s growing efforts to help you keep products in circulation longer and to reduce waste.
Ben Sillitoe, editor, Green Retail World (@bsillitoe)
[Image credits: Green Retail World]