Covid-19 has fuelled a major shift in consumer attitudes towards sustainability – and there’s an important message for the fashion sector, according to data and analytics consultancy GlobalData.
Debalina Banerjee, a retail analyst at GlobalData, says consumers are showing a keen interest in brands that demonstrate sustainable actions in their value chain – and, in particular, the circular economy.
“Loss of jobs and pay cuts due to the pandemic restricted splurging on apparel,” says Banerjee, which has led to increased trading of pre-loved fashion items online and offline.
“The growing popularity of luxury re-commerce will satisfy consumer sentiments at an affordable price, while recycling apparel will aid the reduction of carbon footprints in the manufacturing process, which is beneficial for retailers in addressing global sustainability concerns and targets.”
Banerjee says companies in Europe and the Americas have been faster to adapt to the concept than those in Asia-Pacific, where they still have a long way to go to achieve sustainability standards.
UK retailers are demonstrating proactive steps to meet the Net Zero retail target by 2040, which means decarbonisation of the retail industry and supply chain operations. Selfridges, for example, launched Project Earth last August – a scheme featuring resale, rental, refill and repair services across its fashion and beauty departments to enhance its sustainability credentials.
Across the Atlantic, US-based Rent the Runway – a fashion rental platform – has partnered with ThredUP to minimise fashion waste and increase the lifespan of dresses.
Initiatives such as these will help the move towards a circular economy, says Banerjee.
The rise of on-demand
Meanwhile, the way apparel companies are scheduling production is evolving as consumer shopping behaviour changes. Where manufacturers previously relied on mass production and storage of standard-specified items, warehouses bursting with unsold stock has led to the adoption of more of an on-demand production approach.
This way, she says, apparel manufacturers are starting to produce products when they are necessary and in the quantities actually required which should reduce overstocks and wastage.
“The good news is that this approach is progressively gaining traction among retailers. On-demand production is a great way to curtail the loss of inventory. Disruption and closing of inventories with the pandemic led to the loss of inventory and resources on a large scale.
“Production based on demand will resolve this problem and be a move towards net-zero retail, however, the flip side is increased wait time for customers,” says Banerjee.
Apparel retailers are starting to use Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) to monetise value and exclusivity, by ensuring traceability through the supply chain and retail operations, thus serving as a proof of ownership for the customers. An NFT is a data unit stored in a blockchain that certifies a digital asset as special and therefore non-transferable.
“The integration of NFTs in business will help retailers to maintain credibility and transparency for customers. This will particularly help luxury retailers beat the issue of counterfeiting, which is on the rise every day. This will also ensure smooth functioning of the supply chain, which benefits retailers that are trying hard to achieve efficiency in these times.”