In my last blog, I shared my opinion on why customer experience is key to success on the high street detailing four tips that when combined, help to create that warm fuzzy feeling that creates a great customer experience. Top of my list was “offer things that are relevant to me”. In that context, I started to look at personalisation but in many cases, relevance is based upon the mood at the time, the zeitgeist if you will. We are constantly being told that we are living through a time of unprecedented change – potential economic transformation due to Brexit and trade wars across continents but there is also a massive social revolution taking place.

Traditional differences of opinion are turning into family divisions, and previously established political positions are being challenged. Yet there is one thing that everyone seems to be able to agree upon – sustainability. The passion to do the best we can to look after the planet. How we do that is yet to be clearly defined. Whether adapting our habits to make a difference to our carbon footprint or in taking to protests across capital cities – many actions are being taken. One of the biggest changes is the growth, or rather the phenomenal growth, of reworking, reusing and ultimately the recycling of fashion items today.

Steve Ingram

Retail Industry Director

Let’s explore what is happening

Fashion became fast and it became disposable. The idea being that it was so low cost that it could be worn once and then easily disposed of thus being poor for the environment, as most could not be recycled. But as the wave of consciousness grew, along with the Instagram generation, an online ecosystem developed that was building re-use and selling between individuals. In parallel, retailers are also moving with the times. Previously the domain of the charity shop, now both bricks and mortar and online retailers are giving space to clothes that are termed ‘vintage’, ‘recycled’, ‘pre-loved’ or ‘second hand’ and this is across the full spectrum of fashion.

Online social platforms

Like a socially interconnected version of eBay, this is peer to peer selling, usually accessed via an app, which has now evolved to have more businesses selling to end consumers. A huge proportion of the audience is older teenagers moving around what were previously disposed of items and with around 25,000 sales per day on Depop, it is big business.

Vintage and Pre-loved on the high street

Offered in a mix of dedicated stores and specific areas of predominantly ‘new’ clothing retailers, the ability to buy previously owned goods, some with a ‘lived in’ or ‘pre-worn’ look or shape, is rising in popularity. We are also witnessing the growth of stores with a focus on luxury pre-worn goods to get previous seasons’ looks for huge reductions.

Online Charity Shops

Removing the need for rifling through stock in individual charity shops, ventures such as Thrift+ have been set up to enable anybody to shop for both high street and designer collections. For retailers, it enables them to dispose of stock enabling it to be sold rather than destroyed, and for charities, it helps them trade and earn money more straightforwardly. Collaborations are in their formative stage, but we have recently seen Thrift+ x Farfetch being publicised – surely the first of many.

Circular Fast Fashion

The latest innovation, as described by Nordic online brand NA-KD at the Internet Retailing Conference in October 2019, is planning its brand to be sold, worn and then re-sold on their own ‘pre-loved’ section of its website. Fundamentally, dependent upon their relationships with social media influencers, this brand is an exciting one to watch in 2020.

It is irrefutable that fashion has gained a conscience in recent years, probably driven by the passions raised on social media, and shared across their customer base. This is much much more than a footnote in a Corporate Social Responsibility statement, it is the social change across all generations that is happening right now. Retailers ignore this at their peril.