A Consumer Products Company Discourages Consumerism

Patagonia has recently launched a storefront on Ebay, encouraging consumers to decrease their consumption.  Huh?

Why would a company that must meet profit objectives and shareholder demands encourage it’s most loyal customers not to buy?  In this case, Patagonia is putting it’s mission and values ahead of their growth and profit margin.  It’s a daring move, but one that all of us in Marketing, and the consumer products world in general, should watch very carefully.

With the advent of widespread greenwashing, many companies are seen as making token environmental efforts to say they are “green.”  Even Google is trying to spin its way out of its recent announcement of the amount of electricity it uses, by saying that it saves the planet’s resources.  It’s a stretch to admit to using as much power as Salt Lake City, and then rationalize that it saves fuel because people aren’t driving around looking for the things they want to buy.  I can understand some of Google’s argument.  But when you’re using massive amounts of coal to run your business (which is by far the largest fuel source for electricity and highly polluting) it’s a stretch to claim green status.

It appears that by putting a true “eco-friendly” motive in their selling efforts, Patagonia is counting on people buying long-lasting, quality clothing that doesn’t need replacement for many years: a.k.a. their products.  When a customer gets tired of the clothing, they now have a guilt-free way to recycle it.  But thrift stores have been serving this purpose for years, and recently have seen their sales soar as a result of the recession.

According to Ebay, in an article on the Environmental Leader website, this is “the first time a major retail brand has actively encouraged its customers to buy and sell used products on Ebay. It is also Ebay’s first multi-seller branded store.”

Will this move by Patagonia set the bar to a new high for environmental stewardship?  Or is this just a gimmick to prove the quality and durability of Patagonia products?  Or is there something else at work here–like changing attitudes on consumerism by encouraging consumers to buy less and companies to set smaller growth targets?

What’s your take on this branded move to discourage consumerism? Would you follow suit with your company’s products?


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    1. […] to a September 13 blog post by SageAdvice, Patagonia is now encouraging its customers to buy items used – not new – through its eBay […]

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