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Survey: Sustainability takes back seat to price with holiday shoppers

holiday shopping bag with gifts
Shoppers are focused on good value and price this holiday season.

A new survey that finds consumers value-minded this holiday season also ranks the brands they perceive as most sustainable.

Bombas was rated the top sustainable brand, followed by Yeti and The North Face, according to Stifel’s “Sustainable Lifestyle Brands Index,” which ranks brands based on U.S. active/casual lifestyle consumer perception of brand sustainability practices. The brands were measured according to three metrics of sustainability: environmental, social and ethical business practices.

Rounding out the top ten were Carhartt, Patagonia, Allbirds,  Adidas, Columbia, Under Armour and Smartwool + Levi’s.

The Index was released in conjunction with a survey in which Stifel, working with Morning Consult, surveyed 6,053 U.S. active/causal lifestyle brand consumers ages 18-55. The survey data indicates heightened price sensitivity, just as the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear.

While 80% of consumers still believe it’s important for brands to operate sustainably, only 32% highly prioritize sustainability when making purchasing decisions, compared to other factors such as good value (68%) and low price (57%). 

Amid persistent inflationary pressures, consumer prioritization of low price reflected the largest gains year over year (up five points from 52% in 2022). Roughly three of five consumers (63%), however, remain willing to pay a premium for brands with leading sustainability practices.

Other findings are below.

•Flat with last year, 56% of consumers look for information about a brand’s sustainability practices when contemplating a purchase, 70% (down from 71% in 2022) consider sustainability factors when choosing between brands, and more than half (59%) have purchased a new product specifically because of sustainability reasons.

•More than three-quarters (78%) of consumers indicate they are trying to be more sustainable in their day-to-day life (up from 75% in 2022) and 70% indicate they care more about the sustainability of products they buy than a year ago (versus 67% in 2022).

•Two-thirds of U.S. category consumers (67%) report they are aware of brands receiving negative attention on social media for a statement or action taken on a social issue.

•Three of five category purchasers (60%) think it’s important for brands to take a stance on social issues, but 74% indicate a willingness to boycott a brand if the stance was contrary to their opinion.

“Operating sustainably is a consumer expectation, but brands weighing in on social issues is a high-wire act,” said Jim Duffy, managing director and sports and lifestyle brands analyst at Stifel.. “Consumers want brands to support their issues, but the majority indicate they would boycott a brand that expresses views opposing their own. Deep understanding of the customer is essential to this risk-reward calculus.”

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