Why fast fashion is threatened by sustainable shopping habits

Why fast fashion is threatened by sustainable shopping habits

With fast-fashion brands ahead of the traditional high street, will sustainability concerns affect the longevity of this success?

Rob Allen, Clothing and Fashion Specialist

We already know that digital-focused brands are set to make the biggest profits from the mainstream fashion industry over the next year.. With the cost of living crisis, the uncertainty brought by the Covid-19 pandemic and physical store closures, FMCG fashion brands have exploded in popularity over the past five years, with Boohoo’s profits increase by more than 700% during this period.

However, UK consumers are increasingly aware of the ethical impact of their clothing purchases, with sustainability increasingly becoming a priority when shopping for clothing.

Sustainability & ethics

When expense is rated as the biggest barrier to buying sustainable fashion, fast-fashion brands that don’t focus on lightning-fast inventory turnover are in the best position to offer a wider range of affordable, ethically conscious clothing. H&M is a great example of this, with 23% of the H&M collection will be sustainable in 2021.

Source: Lectra via Statista

Similarly, H&M is also able to apply this to high-end retail with its more upmarket brands Cos and Arket catering to customers with higher disposable income who are less focused on fast fashion trends. .

Digital first

However no FMCG fashion brand appears in UK’s Index of Top Sustainable Brandsthey are best placed to make the most of the digital orientation of young consumers;

Sustainable fashion or ephemeral fashion: preference online or in store according to ageSource: Klarna; Scholarly; TheIndustry.fashion via Statsista

With mobile transactions accounting for 60% of all online purchases, brands that have always been online-only have been able to focus their attention on growing their digital footprint and perform well when it comes to dominating paid advertising on social networks. Many of these online-only brands, like ASOS, Boohoo and Missguided, even have their own applications which are increasingly popular and make browsing the stock as easy as browsing the social networks themselves.

When, as we mentioned, cost is the biggest barrier to sustainable shopping, brands that can offer ultra-convenient shopping and shipping options can still comfortably count on the business of price-conscious shoppers. If fast fashion brands were to add sustainable lines to their stock that could be marketed as a more premium range, they would be able to tick both the practical and ethical boxes for consumers.

The second-hand market

But, even with the introduction of ethical stocks, the profits of fashion retailers may be at risk. Although we are ready to see significant growth in the fast fashion retail spacethe gap between global spending on second-hand clothes is expected to increase significantly over the next three years.

Sustainable Fashion Vs Fast Fashion - Growth Forecast Of Fast Fashion Vs Sustainable Clothing 2020-2025Sources: Research and Markets; statistics; GlobeNewswire and GlobalData; Threup

This significant increase should go hand in hand with the increase in the purchasing power of the younger generations. 42% of 18-37 year olds are willing to buy second-hand clothes, because it is a cheaper and more environmentally friendly way to buy high-end products. With this in mind, resale app Depop’s global popularity has skyrocketed, with active Depop users increase by 107% between March 20 and July 20 (it’s probably no coincidence that it was the peak of the lockdown)!

For fast fashion retailers, this poses specific challenges on how to appeal to this user sense of responsibility. Brands might consider paying special attention to popular items in the resale market, while ensuring their eco-friendly credentials are up-to-date and heavily promoted in their advertising.

As UK clothing shoppers become increasingly ethically conscious, price will always be a sticking point when choosing sustainable fashion lines. As the second-hand market grows to address both sustainability and cost concerns for shoppers, fast fashion brands face the need to act decisively if they are to keep up with the second-hand market. .

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