Well, congratulations to Whole Foods Market again for turning what could be interpreted by consumers as a big inconvenience into a Happening. I'm talking about the company's plan to phase out plastic bags from all its stores and — this is pure genius — to do it by Earth Day 2008.
We're truly impressed that WFM continues to demonstrate a deep willingness to change, and in this case, lead. We're also in total awe of their marketing department and its ability to connect all the dots. Public awareness of plastic bags and plastic water bottles has grown tremendously over the past year, and the idea of taking this step and banning plastic from a store was an idea ripe for the picking (And it's still a hot issue. We'll have two bag-related stories in our next issue of SN Whole Health coming out in February).
But again, John Mackey and company have beaten conventional retailers to the tree. As a result, they get all the publicity, their reputation as a progressive, ethical retailer is reinforced and, well, they get to start saving big bucks by eliminating this line item from their annual budget.
This type of "message marketing" (my term) is yet another wake-up call to mainstream retailers. Health and wellness is an ideal vehicle for such initiatives because it makes people feel good. Let's face it. It's a lot easier to convince shoppers to sacrifice convenience when you tell them it's for the sake of the environment.
This isn't the first time WFM has trumped the conventional industry. Remember lobsters? The chain announced it was phasing out live sales in June 2006 because the whole process of catching them and getting them to the stores amounted to animal cruelty.
Here's something I bet you did not remember: The month before, Safeway said it was phasing out its live lobster tanks. Why? Because... "business was in decline" (their words).
Same idea, different message. Who do you think got the press?