Retail Innovations Blog Series: Trend #4: Responsibility

Welcome back to J.C. Williams Group’s Retail Innovations Blog Series where we celebrate global retail innovation, concepts, and trends! This series is based on our annual publication Retail Innovations, developed in partnership with our affiliate members from the Ebeltoft Group. Throughout the year, we have explored the hot four trends (Smart Shopping, Interactions, Emotional Retail, and Responsibility) showcased in 2018 Global Retail Trends & Innovations and gained insight into the underlying and emerging trends in modern retail.

Trend #4: Responsibility

Consumers care, and so should you. They care about the environment, each other, their bodies, production conditions, and so much more. As a result,brands are held to high standards of responsibility, and violating that expectation can often lead to public outcry. With the surge of online resources, consumers are more socially-conscious than ever. Consumers want to feel like they are making a difference when buying a product, so brands and retailers must incorporate this into their identity. Connecting with consumers through responsible practices brings retailers a unique differentiator and allows them to make a difference in the world as well.

In this blog, we explore this trend under two sub-trends: Caring and Purpose.


Caring is about demonstrating social responsibility and highlighting and ethical, honest, and responsible business practices. It is about making the world a better place by encouraging solidarity and making an effort to preserve and protect what is natural. Demonstrating caring is offering consumption in good conscience and by producing environmentally responsible products and services. Sustainability, animal welfare, and fair trade are in high demand.

Reformation, U.S.A.

Reformation started in 2009 with limited-edition collections made in Los Angeles. It sources sustainable fabrics and vintage garments and incorporates better practices throughout the supply chain, thus causing a fraction of the environmental impact of conventional fashion brands. Designing eco-friendly fast fashion and making what customers want to wear right now supports its mottos: “Make killer clothes that don’t kill the environment” and “Making sustainability and self-confidence cool again.”

In addition to stand-alone stores, Reformation opened techy store concepts in California and New York that add digital tablets to access the e-commerce store, and a “magic wardrobe” feature that enables the brand to sort its assortment on the sales floor based on product performance.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment

Reformation takes an empowering and eco-friendly approach to reaching consumers. Reformation exclusively sells online and at its own boutiques, creating a natural buzz to purchase new products when they launch.

UpsideDown, Romania

UpsideDown is an original and highly responsible alternative to recycling materials. Called “upcycling,” the concept was introduced in Romania by three creative young people who are transforming street banners and old trucks’ tarpaulins into unique pieces such as wallets, handbags, and book and laptop covers.

UpsideDown is, for the moment, an online-only player and can virtually reach any city in Romania from its production plant in Iasi. Already a supplier for many cultural events, banks, and bookstores, UpsideDown plans to extend the range of products and expand with production plants and exhibitions into new cities, touching more and more people with its philosophy.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment

UpsideDown’s success is based on the perfect combination of social responsibility, creativity, and youth, values transmitted by each object. Consumers feel like they are part of something great when buying the products and tend to slowly adopt the habit of being more responsible about the environment, thus improving their own, and everybody else’s quality of life.

The team’s positive attitude leaves a powerful mark on every product it spotlights.


Purpose is closely related to caring. You offer the consumer the opportunity to be part of something even greater than buying products in good conscience. The consumer is given an overarching purpose other than simply making a purchase. Both consumers and employees must see themselves reflected in company values or be able to support a good cause through the purchase.

Feeding Spain, Spain

A concept born from a simple idea: “For every meal you buy, another meal will be provided to someone in need,” Feeding Spain started as a meal-delivery club in 2016. In 2017, it opened a casual restaurant in Barcelona. Prices are affordable and in line with traditional competitors.

Beyond giving food to those in need, Feeding Spain also employs socially vulnerable people. Meals are prepared from only natural, fresh ingredients and cooked slowly at low temperatures, a culinary technique that preserves flavor.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment

Similar initiatives seem to be working in the Spanish market, where traditional food is important and current lifestyles do not allow people to slow-cook at home daily. Feeding Spain has a strong social responsibility component that others lack, but the monthly commitment may put people off. The company needs to counteract this with a wide and constantly changing variety of dishes and great service. It also needs to improve publicity by boosting the use of its Facebook feed as a primary tool for visibility.

Happy Tosti, Netherlands

Happy Tosti is a socially responsible lunch restaurant that aims to make everyone happy, just as the name implies, including customers and employees. Happy Tosti serves sandwiches made and served by employees who have disabilities.

This concept offers work opportunities to a vulnerable population. Thus, the restaurant serves a socially responsible mission, as well as creates a positive social environment. In addition, the menus incorporate many organic, healthy, high-quality products.

Happy Tosti distinguishes itself by its appearance, as well as its hiring philosophy. The décor and open kitchen connect guests with employees. Art made by employees adds another fun element to the restaurant, which evokes the curiosity of passersby.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment

At Happy Tosti, it’s all about food made and served by a happy staff. The combination of high-quality products and enthusiastic, friendly service brings customers an unforgettable experience. By clearly explaining its story, the restaurant gives customers a reason to specifically choose Happy Tosti when they’re hungry. A visit to Happy Tosti makes you happy too, even when something goes wrong or takes a little longer. The growing number of stores shows that this concept works.

This is just a small selection of the case studies available in the full 2018 Global Retail Trends and Innovations, showing that responsibility in the retail world can have a huge impact on customers. Responsible practices can connect consumers to the brand and gives everyone – consumers, retailers, and employees – a chance to make a difference in their lives and the world.

See 6 MORE Responsibility concepts and more in 2018 Global Retail Trends and Innovations! Download your free copy now!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *