One of the big success stories of the past decade in retail has been the rise of “fast fashion”.
Fast fashion is a well defined business model that looks to replicate recent catwalk trends and high-fashion designs.
The big hitters in the industry then look to mass-produce them at a low cost, and bring them to their physical and online retail stores quickly, while demand is at its highest.
The most prominent exponents of the concept are now household names in the UK because of the success of the model. These include BooHoo whose brands include Pretty Little Thing and Nasty Gal and Asos who own Topshop and Miss Selfridges.
These businesses saw huge success during the pandemic with sales skyrocketing reporting record high profits. However, now the lockdowns are behind us, was the model a sound one to build a business around or has it proved to be a temporary too good to be true blip?
Now customers are able to return to shopping malls and the high street, big fast fashion businesses have been dealt the equivalent of an Uno reverse card as they have seen drastic falls in both revenue and demand..
Boohoo Group Plc forecast a double-digit decline in revenue as inflation-squeezed consumers cut back on buying clothes online and a return to stores that were shut during Covid lockdowns.
Their estimate that expected sales will drop about 12% this financial year, with earnings set to fall too.
ASOS joined them by reporting that their UK sales have fallen by 10%.
Fast forward to eco-fashion?
The fashion sector within retail is estimated to contribute £45 billion a year to the UK economy so if the fast fashion boom really is over, then this could be an expensive retrench while the next big thing is decided upon.
What is becoming more apparent amongst environmentally conscious Gen Z customers – those born between 1996 and 2012 – who are the most visible in moving away from fast fashion and instead opting for sustainable, eco-friendly alternatives.
New research from student consumers showed that sustainable fashion is important to 79% of Gen Z respondents, while another two thirds (68%) want clothes manufactured to the highest ethical standards too.
These and other views need to be considered carefully by fashion and retail businesses as Gen Z’s combined spending and increasing activism is making them the most influential customer block and ignoring them could see companies being left behind.
How fast fashion went from big news to bad news
There have also been several recent controversies over fast fashion which has helped highlight some of the systematic flaws in the way apparel has been produced and consumed over the last few years and have hastened its decline as a concept and label.
Here are the three biggest “icks” amongst Gen Z that have seen many permanently turn against fast fashion.
- Environmental concerns
This is potentially the biggest deal breaker for any retailer or clothes brand that hopes to catch Gen Z’s attention.
Fast fashion has had a negative impact on the planet for several reasons. In order to keep costs down, cheap and toxic textile dyes have been used en masse which has contributed to water pollution mainly in the developing world where clean water access is already critical.
Toxic dyes and microfibers that are released into waterways are then ingested by local land and marine life which can spread throughout the food chain to devastating effect.
Because of these concerns, Gen Z customers are more conscious than any other group of where their clothing is sourced from and how it can impact climate change.
- Ethical issues
In order to be able to offer fast fashion clothes at low prices, costs need to be kept as low as possible. Several investigations have revealed that paying garment workers in developing nations low wages and having them work in dangerous environments with inadequate representation or safety standards.
Gen Z are not down with that and as the most socially online and agile consumer group, they find out and share negative stories with their friends and peers more quickly than anybody else.
- Better quality, same price
Another unforeseen consequence of the pandemic is the re-emergence of thrift as a lifestyle choice.
Customers are actively ditching “throw away culture” and consciously opting for second hand and vintage items. This has led to the rise of new online brands and apps such as Depop, Vinted and established players such as eBay who have embraced the trend.
These apps allow customers to join in fashion trends at affordable prices and give existing clothing products a new lease of life so they don’t end up in a landfill.
Savvy and agile clothes retailers have spotted this opportunity and taken full advantage of it.
The fate of fast fashion proves once again that when it comes to retail trends, one moment you’re in, the next you’re out.
And being out can mean anything from a downturn in quarterly sales all the way to going out of business so it’s important to recognise and adapt to sudden changing circumstances.
This is why it’s so important to get some advice if you see or suspect that your business might find itself facing in the wrong direction from your customers.
Some might decide that it’s time to try something new altogether and want to close their business as quickly and efficiently as possible – and that’s ok too.
However you want your business to look in the next few months, it’s best to get a second look from an expert – a BusinessRescueExpert!