Research: Small business revenue drops as shoppers avoid plastic packaging

Data Insights 27 September 2018

Retailers say fruit and veg wrapped in plastic tops shopper blacklist

As scrutiny increases on plastics use across all industries, new research* from Paymentsense reveals over half (54%) of small retailers have seen sales of plastic packaged goods fall over the last six months.

The research shows that sales of fruit and vegetables wrapped in plastic are most commonly highlighted as down, closely followed by fruit juice and water in plastic bottles. It also underlines how shoppers purchasing habits are evolving, in light of months of mainstream media attention on the subject.


Almost half (49%) of the small retailers surveyed said the number of customers requesting products without packaging has increased over the last six months. Over a third (36%) reported that consumers are now buying more unwrapped goods and using their own bags or containers to transport them. Nearly a quarter (23%) said they had seen a growth in customers requesting products with plastic-free packaging.


The trend is having an impact on revenues. The small retailers surveyed said they had noticed an associated drop in takings of 3.6%, on average. In response to these shifting consumer priorities, and as the zero-waste movement gains traction, many small retailers are already making changes.


Over four in 10 (41%) said they have started stocking unpacked or loose goods as well as introduced new lines with plastic-free packaging in the last six months. Almost a third (30%) are also now recycling more, and a quarter (25%) no longer sell drinks with built-in plastic straws.


Guy Moreve, CMO at Paymentsense said: “Our study shows how changing consumer behaviour is starting to have an impact on the UK’s small retailers. It’s clear that in recent years public awareness has deepened around the issue, and pressure to reduce or eliminate plastics from products and packaging has grown significantly. Movements like the UK Plastics pact are really gaining traction, as businesses and industry work towards a more circular approach to protect the environment.”


Small retailers’ consumer blacklist


  1. Fruit and vegetables wrapped in plastic (highlighted as down by 44% of small retailers)
  2. Fruit juice in plastic bottles (43%)
  3. Water in plastic bottles (39%)
  4. Plastic cutlery (26%)
  5. Plastic straws (26%)
  6. Drinks sold with plastic straws (25%)
  7. Soft drinks in plastic bottles (24%)
  8. Tea bags (23%)
  9. Cling film (17%)
  10. Frozen food with plastic packaging (14%)


*Data from 291 small UK retail businesses. Research took place in July 2018.


About Paymentsense

As Europe’s largest merchant services provider, Paymentsense enables over 70,000 SMEs to process over £6 billion worth of card payments per year. From card readers to semi-integrated solutions and payment gateways, Paymentsense supplies small businesses with low-cost card processing solutions that allow them to take payments in store, online, over the phone and on the move.

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