Consumer use of pre-loved clothing

Clothing retailers could take a quick and easy step towards reducing their environmental impact by taking back clothes from their customers and reselling them on the second-hand market – but what is the commercial potential of doing so?

This is the focus of new research that we have published today. Aiming to identify how much of a commercial opportunity the used clothing market in the UK represents for clothing brands, the survey looked at whether second-hand clothing purchases stop people from buying new clothes.

The findings showed that one in three people had bought used and vintage clothing in 2019, around 50% of women and 25% of men. What stood out though was that approximately 60% of respondents declared that buying the used garment had prevented or delayed them from buying a new item of the same type.

Gerrard Fisher, QSA Partners says, “This means that six out of ten used garments resold actually help to avoid a new product purchase, reducing the demand for new resources to be extracted and the environmental impacts – carbon emissions, waste and water use – that go along with that. This is a significant finding for the fashion industry, which is a major contributor to climate change.”

The research, conducted by Icaro Consulting on behalf of QSA Partners and the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB), is also a substantial new piece of evidence that circular business models can have a really positive impact on the fashion sector’s impact whilst providing new market opportunities.

Gerrard continues, “Consumer attitudes and demands are changing and evidence suggests this has accelerated during lockdown, the fashion industry needs to respond to that. The message is clear – if one third of your customers are buying used and you aren’t serving them, now is the time to act. When buying used appears to mean buying less, fashion brands that aren’t addressing this will lose out”.

The research is part of the ‘Circular Fashion Fast Forward’ project, run in collaboration with LWARB as part of the C&A Foundation’s Bridging the Gap initiative. Andrea Crump, fashion and textiles lead at LWARB, said, “We’re delighted that this research shows that consumers are considering their purchases of new products more carefully. We’re often challenged on whether circular business models really are better for the environment – and this research shows that they definitively can be.”

Download a FREE copy of the research report.

QSA Partners is a specialist team of circular economy and sustainable business experts with extensive experience in fashion and consumer goods. We have worked with many designer and high street brands including adidas, Farfetch and Ted Baker. We believe that better business models – whether based on sustainability or circular economy principles – help our clients stay relevant, grow market share and open up different markets in this rapidly changing world, providing business resilience against the impacts and risks of climate change. Find out more about our services or contact us to see how we can help your business benefit.

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