Welcome to the latest column within our broader sustainability section, which focuses on what fashion retailing is doing to address the issues in its industry.
It may seem that the current mood music is very much against fast fashion – and a good thing too, many would argue. A recent Media Vision survey using its Digital Demand Tracker showed just how far some of the former mighty names in the fast fashion world have fallen. Searches for TopShop down by 60% and MissPap down by 45%. Investors have also fallen out of love with the big brands such as Boohoo and Asos shares having fallen dramatically since Covid-19 and in June this year the formerly unthinkable happened when Missguided went into administration.
At the same time we are also seeing the likes of Pre-worn (searches up by 344%), Vinted seeing growth of 22%, and the Vestiare Collective up by a fifth. What has been termed the 2022 Summer of PreLove is leading on to an Autumn of much the same as the shift towards resale beds itself in to being a new business model reality.
But if you were thinking that Gen Zs are spending hours on end in their local charity shops rummaging through racks to find a bargain designer item then think on. The pre-worn revolution is wholly digitised and what that means is a chink of unexpected light for those original online fashion disruptors who have now found themselves disrupted by environmental anxiety among their core clientele.
With their lightning quick ordering along with impressive delivery and returns operations they could, if the fashion cards are played right, the existing players could be in a sweet spot to pivot straight into this market too.
The problems of the current resale market can be summarised thus – recently one of the junior arms of Retail Insider bought herself a coat from one of the leading non-luxury resale sites used by young consumers. After 10 days the said coat had still not appeared. After two weeks she was refunded and was back to square one. This site relies on its young users willing interaction to a large extent – they have to be bothered to wrap up their garment, stroll down to the post office, queue and actually send the thing off. This amount of consumer effort is slightly alien to the core clientele who are extremely used to fast fashion’s seamless and endless ability to deliver and return items directly to them.
So, in essence, this market is full of buyers who want to swipe across digital racks to find their pre-worn items, and sellers who are accustomed to having things picked up direct from them and both buyers and sellers who expect to be able to return anything very easily. The obvious disconnect here can be bridged by one concept – slick fashion.
If you haven’t heard of it it is a mash up of slow (second-hand in other words) and quick (streamlined delivery and returns) fashion. As one door shuts for fast fashion brands another is definitely opening in the form of this vast new market. Who better to use their ingenious tech platforms to satisfy this demanding demographic, 25% of whom confess they expect to receive orders the same day never mind waiting a fortnight for your seller to make it down to the post office.
There is also a demand from consumers to be able to buy both new and second-hand garments in the same place, according to research from SQLI Digital Experience, which found that two thirds of its respondents would like to buy second-hand through an online shop (something that charity shops could also usefully note). A clear majority also wanted pictures, reviews from previous owners, and provenance information on the fabrics used – all of which the fast fashion brands could easily adapt to regardless of whether they are selling their own brand items again or offering an all-round pre-loved experience.
At the end of the day if money really does talk then it is telling online retailers – including the fast fashion brands – to keep up the good work on online presentation, delivery and returns while also asking politely for there to be a lot more ‘as new’ options to swipe through.