Where did we lose our sense of responsibility and quality when buying fashion?
A recent survey of Barclaycard in the UK showed that nearly 10% of the webshop returns in fashion are items that were used for one day or to snap an #OOTD (outfit-of-the-day) and send back. The majority of people who return their online purchases are between 35–44 years old — I belong in that age category!
I have never returned an #OOTD in my life. For years, my mantra is “Buy less, choose well, and make it last” — an expression coined by Vivienne Westwood. A mantra we all need to remember when shopping. Yet, the retail industry has heavily invested in sales methods that make us act on the contrary.
Can Brands that sell less, be profitable?
[buy less] Shopping-behaviour influencing technologies and marketing tools provide fantastic shopping experiences and convenience within a click. As consumers, we need to be strong to resist buying products that we did not know we wanted or needed in the first place.
There are many ways to increase retail success, without having people buy more then they need. By investing in direct-to-consumer trade, customer engagement and lowering e-commerce product returns, brands can increase their business results. Even if the end result is that consumers buy less.
What can the fashion industry do to make us shop better?
[choose well] Two thirds of the consumers indicate, they would like to shop better sourced fashion. There are many initiatives to embed more good into retail, but how good a product really is — remains unclear to most of us. It is extremely difficult to understand what key values matter to us most, when it comes to buying fashion. It is even more difficult to identify these values in the brands and products that we like.
Retail brands should invest in their communication for good. A clear and transparent responsibility strategy will ensure both employees and customers to understand and engage with goals for good resulting in increased loyalty to your brand.
How to identify quality?
[Make it last] During my career working for a fashion retailer, I remember how proud we were when we managed to decrease the production lead time to 6 weeks from design to store allocation. Todays trending fashion outfits are produced on demand and shipped overnight to teenagers who order their new #ootd over instagram and snapchat. The items are more often then not of such poor quality, they only last long enough to take a #selfie.
These young people have grown up in a world of fast fashion, in a social network where you are as likable as your latest selfie. They are the children of our ‘Buy now, Enjoy now, Pay later’-generation. This generation — and that’s me again — has not been pampered by fashion sales staff advising on fit, material and quality. They have been pampered with unlimited services and freebees by large (online) retailers investing in their market share. Is this where our sense for quality got lost?
Making consumers aware of the origin of their outfit, is a good first step to make them understand how quality is born. Even within a small budget there are big opportunities to buy better, lasting products. Considering the frequency of use and opportunity to resell your #ootd after your #selfie, it might even be a good trade for shoppers on a budget.
I advocate for more good in fashion & retail
The majority of the consumers indicate they would like to shop better, and they are willing to pay extra for that. There is a significant opportunity to develop products and services that meet the wishes of consumers, and that will allow them to become the responsible consumer they would like to be.
*images: Photo Vivienne Westwood by Tim Walker for British Vogue 2009