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Frugal shoppers are buying less, putting sales volumes under pressure

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

17 Feb 2021


Buy less, buy better, once the mantra of elite sustainability campaigners, has swept the world to become a global mindset, defining a post-pandemic reality.

Rail upon rail of cheap clothing is no longer an appealing retail formula as consumers shift away from fast fashion to mindful shopping. Inexpensive short lifespan garments, embedded in the disposable fashion ethos, is no longer the key driver when making purchasing decisions. Shoppers are looking for long-lasting, high quality and versatile products for which retailers must embrace a value-proposition that meets this new mindset.

Encouraging mass consumption from accelerated production is out of date

Sales volumes at companies producing overstock has come under pressure, highlighted by the pandemic and shift in consumption needs. Cheap clothing originating from companies with little outward regard for sustainability, traceable supply chains or worker welfare is less attractive than products from companies embracing the greater good. The outdated formula of accelerated production to encourage mass consumption came with an unprecedented environmental cost, one that consumers like Gen Z are vocal to condemn.

In the UK, sales of clothing fell fell 25 percent in 2020, the biggest drop in 23 years since records began. With overflowing closets, it took a pandemic to realise durability and quality are taking precedence over disposable clothes made in low-wage factories with few environmental regulations. The trend for more artisanal products and an ecological sensibility that questioned origin gathered momentum five years ago, when signs of consumers rejecting mass production became evident.

A poll conducted by Censuswide for Barnardo’s before the pandemic showed Britons potentially would spend 2.7 billion pounds on fashion that will only be worn once. But new insights from Accenture show consumers attitudes, behaviours and purchasing habits are changing—and many of these new ways will remain post-pandemic. While purchases are currently centered on the most basic needs, people are shopping more consciously, buying local and embracing digital commerce.

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