The Drapers/ICM poll on ethical production was a masterclass in consumer behaviour.
Just to remind you, 42% of shoppers polled said the Panorama documentary exposing child labour used by a Primark supplier would make them think twice about shopping there – strong stuff. But only 3% said that ethical production was a consideration when making a purchase.
How can we say on one hand that we are shocked by revelations of child labour, and on the other claim that the revelations won’t make a difference to our purchasing decisions?
Put simply, consumers run two value systems when it comes to shopping. As master researcher Wendy Gordon wrote in Brand Green, a pamphlet she wrote for the Green Alliance in 2002, there is a gap between what people say they want, and what they actually buy when faced with the moment of truth about what to put in the shopping trolley.
So even though we may intellectually agree with an issue, it won’t necessarily be the key driver in making a purchase. Green fashion is a perfect example of this. No matter how much the consumer wants to support green products, they will only buy green if it ticks all the other boxes. Is it fashionable? Is it a cool brand? Is it value for money? Putting green first won’t guarantee a sale, even to the most committed advocate.
As for ethical clothing, campaigners still have a lot of work to do to raise awareness. Until they can construct a brand that the consumer can identify with, the ethical manufacturing will only be a string of news stories in their mind. Only when the issue becomes emotional and manages to cut through the media noise will they vote with their wallets.
Juliet Warkentin is content director at online trends analysis business WGSN. Visit www.wgsn.com