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Why is sustainability the hot topic this summer?

Pictured: Becca Classic Vegan Saddle Bag

 

Sustainability is becoming a mainstream topic across the board thanks to activists such as Greta Thunberg, initiatives to stop using harmful processes and materials that have become legally binding, and an improvement in educational materials.

One example of a successful campaign being turned to legislation and implemented nationwide is the reduction of single-use plastics such as plastic straws and carrier bags, which now cost a minimum of 10p. The BBC writes that since the levy was introduced in 2015, the use of plastic bags has declined by 95%.   

Consumers have a better understanding of sustainability and are asking more questions of the brands they know and love.

  • Does my face scrub contain plastic?
  • Is my sun cream ocean-friendly?
  • How do I feel about products that contain animal ingredients?
  • Am I comfortable wearing real leather?
  • Are my clothes ethically made? Will they last?

The latter is a prominent issue as sustainability in fashion is gaining momentum. People are questioning their fast (and faster than fast) fashion shopping choices as their awareness around the issue increases.

But will the changes that consumers made during lockdown last?


Post-lockdown opportunities and challenges:

After what we can only describe as a long social hibernation, things are slowly getting back to normal (or a version of normal). Not only are people going out more and socialising, they are making plans and looking forward to the future for the first time in a while. This general sense of optimism coupled with the nice weather we’ve recently experienced has led to a steady increase in retail sales.  

During lockdown there were notable changes to consumer spending habits. For a start, most shops (fast fashionistas, indies, and all those in between) were closed except for online or click-and-collect orders. There was a strong emphasis placed on ‘shop local’ campaigns to ensure the high street was supported (although some larger high street brands such as Debenhams had a tough time too).

In addition, people simply didn’t need new clothes because they had nowhere to go, no holidays planned, and no upcoming events. For some, this led to an increase in savings. Whether through the furlough scheme or because of a reduction in work travel, lunches, and quick commuter shopping trips. 

As a result, many consumers have been able to increase their nest egg, save for a dream purchase such as a house, or make investments for the future in stocks and shares. 

Lockdown has forced people to consider their surroundings, their habits, and their plans for the future. Whether they’ve redecorated their house from top to bottom because they’ve been stuck in for the past 18 months, or they’ve made positive sustainable changes to the way they live, it has been a time for reflection. 

All these experiences have the potential to challenge the status quo within industries that are environmentally unfriendly, including the fashion industry.


 

What changed during lockdown?

With so much uncertainty over the past 18 months, consumers largely shopped less because they weren’t going anywhere and simply didn’t need new clothes. In addition, no-one knew when things would get better and there was widespread employment instability. 

Sustainable shoppers are on the rise, as research by the Fashion Retail Academy revealed that the number of sustainable shoppers increased by a third in the 12 months up to early 2020. 

The research highlighted the fact that two out of three consumers would buy secondhand clothes, 70% of consumers choose to recycle their clothes, and over half of those asked are more likely to choose long lasting quality items than cheaper fast fashion. The results strongly suggest consumers want to see change within the fashion industry.

Meanwhile, retailers have faced their own challenges, including Primark, arguably one of the most prominent fast fashion retailers. While it was closed, millions of people may have curbed their fast fashion shopping habits, but will this continue now it has reopened and consumers are shopping for summer? 



The current situation

According to Retail Economics there are ten key predictions for the UK retail industry this year. This includes the fact that the pandemic has and will continue to influence purchasing trends and the yet unknown long-term economic impact of the pandemic on household finances. 

Also noted is the need for brands to connect directly with consumers to foster authentic relationships, which makes the need to avoid negative publicity even more important for large brands. For now, many fashion organisations are working to update their business models to ensure it is secure while also embracing sustainability.

The Retail Times noted in April of this year that there has already been a significant rise in the second-hand clothes market in the UK. Since 2018, research shows that there has been a 404% year-on-year increase in secondhand sales, particularly with the rise of fashion apps Depop and Vinted. 

In America, the same trend appears to be happening as Green Queen has reported that the secondhand fashion market is expected to be worth $77 billion within the next five years. 

Ultimately, only time will tell what positive changes and shopping habits are here to stay, but hopefully the lessons learnt over lockdown will continue to play a positive role within society.

Have you changed the way you shop during lockdown? We’d love to hear the ways you are embracing sustainability!

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