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Exclusive: Consumers' sustainable shopping habits revealed

Almost two-thirds of shoppers believe that retailers and brands have the greatest responsibility for ensuring sustainable practices in the fashion industry, ahead of consumers and the government, new research has found.

It comes after the government rejected all recommendations by the environmental audit committee’s report on the sustainability of the fashion industry earlier this year. This included the introduction of a 1p levy on each garment to raise £35m a year for improved recycled clothing collection and sorting. 

The report, from consultancy Retail Economics and law firm Penningtons Manches Cooper, found that despite 77% of shoppers being willing to prioritise retailers with strong ethical and environmental values, 61% of them would not be willing to pay more for their products. 

When asked which was more important – price or sustainability – two-thirds of respondents favoured price.

This supports findings from Drapers’ Sustainability Survey, in which 60.3% of respondents said the main barrier to becoming more sustainable was that it drives up costs. 

To add to this complexity, 31% of Generation Z shoppers are making clothing purchases at least once a fortnight, Retail Economics reports. Two-fifths of shoppers have donated or traded-in second-hand clothing to a retailer and 72% of those who have not said they would consider it in the future. 

“With fashion retail sales under pressure as consumers remain cautious in regards to discretionary spending, business models that attract a new type of customer looking for pre-owned clothing, or that provides access rather than ownership, is a strategy that an increasing number of retailers are adopting to bolster revenue and extend the lifespan of clothing at the same time,” said Matthew Martin,  co-head of Penningtons Manches Cooper’s fashion and luxury brands team. 

The data is part of a series produced by Penningtons Manches Cooper and Retail Economics on Understanding and Influencing the Customer Journey for Fashion.

The report found that around the festive period, younger generations are more likely to shift their spending online from stores. And, as the role of physical stores continues to change, 48% of respondents said they would visit a store more often if it offered click and collect. 

In store and online, “buy now, pay later” services such as Klarna and Clearpay are increasingly preferred among Gen Z and millennial shoppers with limited disposable income. 

Richard Lim, chief executive at Retail Economics, said: ”There’s no escaping that fashion retail is increasingly moving online. But the rapid rise of social media has driven a desire – or perhaps pressure – to be seen in fresh outfits more often, which is being supported by fast-fashion retail. 

“At the same time, consumers are becoming more concerned about their impact on the environment. The balance between price and sustainability certainly leaves a curious place for clothing rentals and pre-owned markets, as shoppers and retailers attempt to ‘do the right thing’, simultaneously increasing the lifespan of clothing before it hits landfill and providing a value alternative.”


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