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UK eco-awareness surge is good for planet, bad news for fast fashion - report

Published
Mar 4, 2020
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As consumers become increasingly focused on sustainability, a new study shows that a third of shoppers would now select quality items that they expect to last rather than the cheap fast-fashion they’d have chosen just a year ago.


UK consumers are turning against fast fashion, a new study shows



The Fashion Retail Academy (FRA) commissioned Onepoll to speak to 2,000 people and found that over half (51.4%) of Britons think this way, a 33.8% increase in just 12 months. And almost three-quarters (71.3%) of shoppers would now choose to recycle their clothes rather than throw them away.

Additionally, 66% of consumers would buy second-hand clothes, with 15% more women saying they would do so than men.

It's particularly interesting that we’re seeing such big jumps over a relatively short 12-month period and this reflects both the news flow around sustainability issues, and initiatives from fashion companies and retailers, as well as non-profit organisations, in order to educate consumers on the subject.

“The sustainability agenda has made massive strides worldwide in the past year, with campaigners including Greta Thunberg capturing the public imagination and convincing millions more people to live environmentally-friendly lives,” the FRA said. 

The change can also be seen by a fall in the number of people “who consciously opt for fast fashion”, which has dropped from 46.2% down to a small 14%.

Of course, we have to look at these figures very objectively and while this is happening in consumers’ minds, it isn't always being translated into action at the checkout. If it was, we'd be seeing massive plunges in sales for companies such as Boohoo, H&M and more.

But there’s clearly a major transformation happening in terms of the overall environment for fast fashion and this will have big implications for the fashion retail sector. For instance, consumers in the UK say they’re now less likely to throw away their clothes than last year. That 71.3% figure quoted earlier compares to 59.7% a year ago. An almost-20% increase in just 12 months is a real sign of changing mindsets. 

And as mentioned, it’s clear that women are leading the change with 25.4% more of them wearing secondhand clothes than men and 31.4% more recycling their clothes. It's interesting also that the over-55s are more likely to recycle their clothes than younger generations are (75.7% against 64.5%) and the Welsh are the most likely group in the UK to do so too (74%). Recycling is lowest in Northern Ireland at just 60%.

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