Sustainable fashion is most definitely becoming a mainstream strategy for brands and retailers alike, but it's the consumer whose driving that agenda.

More than half of 25-to-34-year-olds buy second-hand clothes, and half have repaired damaged or worn-out clothes, new data published by Mintel shows. Is this just a 'thing'or is it a sign of future changes to consumer behaviour that all retailers need to keep an eye on?

We've all seen the recent global reaction and demonstrations to 'climate change', and whilst this blog isn't about riding on the back of what's clearly an extremely vital movement this is my opinion piece which I hope helps to highlight that the way we're running the world doesn't have the level of sustainability we have come to know.

I remember in my school days being pressured to wear the right brand of shoes, shirts, trainers etc. We then get into the workplace and unless you're in a job that requires a uniform the pressure is also there.  

Up-cycling and recycling is in its own way becoming a movement, I was once involved in a company that bought - refurbished - and sold your old media, and today your old tech, believe me it's a lucrative sector if you can get it right, but for planet earth is it still just kicking the can further down the road?.

My view is that fast fashion has never been a long term sustainable business, in order to maintain growth required by investors means a constant tug of war between shareholder value, and the 'I want it now' fickle socially savvy consumer,and much less about environmental issues.

What about the business impact?

If you’re an online fashion and footwear retailer, you’re probably all too aware of the corrosive effect returns have on your bottom line. 

Across the retail sector, return rates to bricks-and-mortar stores are running at around 8%. Compare that with a hefty 40% returns rate for online purchases.

It's no secret that to build an online fashion business it's vital that you factor in those high 'return rates' into your financial models. Return rates for many retailers can make or break a company, particularly those on fast fashion (link below). 

Post festive season is one of the most costly and turbulent times in fashion, mainly because of the shopping frenzy that takes place ahead of Christmas, along with the office and party season. Items get worn, and sent back. Presents get bought and then either exchanged, or a refund requested, so the logistics tends to impact virtually every part of the business, along with the additional environmental impact.

In late 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon had begun freezing the accounts of shoppers ‘who made too many returns’. Meanwhile in April 2019, ASOS announced its own crackdown on ‘serial returners’, deactivating transgressors’ accounts, while research by Brightpearl of 200 retail executives found that two-thirds of respondents were willing to follow Amazon and ASOS’s example.

Simply factoring in higher than average return rates is one thing, but factoring those returns during a time of year when retailers are looking to keep resource cost down is where we often see most of the pain being felt. 

Why is it brands don't seem to utilise 'Social Media' for something other than to 'advertise and promote' themselves?. What we do see is them using it as a 'reactive' way to manage disgruntled customers, but for some reason they prefer not to 'engage' in conversations with you and me.

Social platforms are a great low cost way to help inform and educate consumers around sizing and other valuable information that can create a win/win situation and help to take the strain and stress out of the process for all.