Sustainability Forecast #2: Durability and Value for Money
‘Slow’ isn’t usually a positive term in the world of fashion and retail. However, the concept of slowing down and making considered purchase decisions for more durable, sustainable items is very topical for brands and consumers.
Since the early 1990s, the changing dynamics of the fashion industry created a ‘throwaway’ attitude to clothing, forcing retailers to prioritise low cost and flexibility in design and speed to market to maintain a profitable position in the increasingly demanding market. Yet, fast forward to the new millennium and events such as the devastating Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 revealed to the world the true cost of fast fashion and the reality of cheap labour undertaken by workers in dangerous conditions, all for the sake of profit.
Many people started to reconsider buying fast cheap fashion, not only because of unethical production practices, but also because the low-quality manufacture of the garments resulted in clothes being worn only a couple of times, before being discarded and often ending up in landfill sites.
Coming forward to the present day, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing people to reconsider their wardrobes and buying habits in general, more consumers than ever are actively shopping for quality over quantity and investing in products that will last. Rather than buying multiple cheap, replaceable versions of the same product, they’re prepared to pay more for durable and reliable materials, and are on the lookout for repairability and good quality. While making a larger initial investment, changing their buying habits in this way is likely to save them money overall.
But this sounds like worrying news for brands and retailers, as reduced consumption means reduced sales, right? Thankfully, that’s not the case. Customers who are adopting this trend still buy products – but the slow philosophy will influence the way they think, develop and purchase. The key to success is understanding what these consumers want, and how to meet their desires.
It’s clear that customers may be more willing to pay a higher price if they know a product will last. But brands need accurate, live data about which products are selling well, and which price point is right for each SKU/channel. They also need to be able to predict cost fluctuations upfront based on product modifications such as color, material, country of origin and packaging, whilst actively sourcing durable materials and being transparent about their supplier relationships in order to respond to high consumer expectations.
Digital transformation solutions empower companies with sophisticated reporting and merchandise planning capabilities to help brands predict likely product success with confidence, based on data from previous seasons, and respond intuitively to marketplace disruptions, which means less waste, tighter control of margins and a more conscious, considered approach to collection planning.
With a strong, connected digital backbone, brands can create an open dialogue with consumers, source durable materials more cost-effectively and innovate products that are designed for a long service life.