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The Appeal of Bulk Shopping: A summary of responses to a survey on Bulk Shopping (Part 1)

By Murr-ma

I often hear people ask, "Wouldn’t it be nice if there were more shops where you can bring your own containers and buy in bulk?" What is it that draws people to want such shops? And what can be done to make such shops more popular? Asking myself these simple questions, I recently created a survey on Twitter to try to find out how other people feel.

The results of the survey led me to launch Kurun Kyoto. Let me share some of them with you.

Some Benefits of Bulk Shopping

First I asked what people find attractive about bulk shopping. Three hundred people answered this question (multiple answers were allowed). Let's take a look, starting with the choices that garnered the strongest response.

1. Bulk Shopping reduces packaging and other waste (290 respondents: 97%)

The most common reason was that shopping in bulk creates less garbage. There are many reasons why people feel concerned about garbage:

  • When they start living alone for the first time,

  • When they notice the increase in takeout due to the COVID-19 pandemic,

  • When they experience the hassle of disposing of garbage, and,

  • When they calculate the high cost of garbage bags.

Many of the comments reflected the same frustration over the amount of plastic food packaging.

Reviewing these opinions, I remembered back to an article from National Geographic. Plastic food packaging now outpaces cigarette butts as most abundant beach trash

2. Shoppers can purchase just the amounts they need (234 respondents: 78%)

The next most popular response was that people appreciate being able to purchase only what they need. When shopping at bulk stores, you can try just a small amount of something new, or buy large quantities of products you use all the time. This prevents unnecessary expense and/or food loss.

However, it would be missing the point if selling absolutely everything in bulk means that stores have to toss any unsold leftovers. On this issue, one respondent suggested:

“It might be difficult to offer all products without packaging . . . but starting first with a few best-selling items might be a less risky way for stores to begin supporting bulk shopping.”

Influenced by this comment, Kurun Kyoto’s Shopping Map lists any store selling even just one product in bulk.

3. Bulk Shops support a Better-World Consciousness (99 respondents: 33%)

The third most common opinion was that stores offering bulk shopping tend to carry products promoting a social and/or environmental consciousness--for example, organic and/or fair trade products. However, while some people found this attractive, I also received many comments about how high prices can be a problem. For this reason, the Shopping Map also includes Non-Bulk Shops. You may be looking for good-quality products, even if they are expensive. You might be searching for reasonably priced products carried by nearby stores. And in either case, whenever possible, everyone wants to avoid packaging waste. Kurun Kyoto would like to help find answers to all your shopping concerns.

4. Other

Yet another mentioned that "there is no need to refill." Indeed, if you can fill the items you buy directly into storage containers you use in your kitchen, there is no need to go through the extra step of transferring them again at home.

I hope the above information has successfully conveyed the appeal of package-free, bulk shopping. In the next article, I will share more of the survey results that led to the idea for Kurun Kyoto. I hope you will find them useful.


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