The Mintel report on women’s wear UK – April 2013 shows some interesting changes in attitudes and trends in high street fashion, which may be an opportunity for the ethical fashion industry.
The current tough economic climate has definitely changed consumer behaviour and some of the previous trends of the UK fashion market. Although spending on cloths still remains a high priority amongst women, the female fashion shopper is a lot more careful about what they buy and how much they spend, according to Tamara Sender, senior clothing analyst.
Sales in women’s clothing have risen over the past 5 years and are predicted to continue to grow, but we will see a change in the type of clothes being bought and the demographic of the shopper. Consumers are showing a more responsible attitude towards fashion shopping, exhibiting a reduction in impulsive buying and being more careful about how they spend their money.
We have already seen a fall in fashion consumption by the younger age group, 16-24 year olds, previously the biggest and most frequent spender and anticipate this trend to continue. Most probably due to high levels of youth unemployment and rises in tuition fees, which has led to reduced impulsive buying and purchasing just replacement items. Interestingly the data also shows an increase in fashion spending amongst the older age groups and the socio economic group ABC1’s, though they are also more careful how they spend on fashion.
Reported also is a return of the trend to up-cycle or make do with clothes, and a rise in replacement buying since 2012. Quality is now more important to women than price which could very well be an opening for well made, durable clothes produced ethically as opposed to the fast turnaround high street fashion.
The survey does not question awareness of or attitudes towards any unethical practices in the fashion industry. However after the factory disaster in May of this year and the more recent release of the climate change report I would guess that attitudes would have changed even more significantly away from fast cheap fashion and towards a more responsible fashion.
Although changes to spending habits are driven by financial constraints and worryingly Primark is still the mostly widely used retailer. It would be very interesting to conduct a survey to find out how opinion may have recently changed in terms of ethics in fashion. As the older age group and AB social groups are increasing their expenditure, they might in fact be the “right” consumer to drive a more effective ethical agenda in the market place.
The landscape of the ethical fashion supplier could be very different if they were perhaps to act together and in a timely manner. The lack of awareness of their brand is perhaps the biggest challenge to these small businesses but something they could overcome using social media marketing. Another important obstacle that needs to be tackled would be the understanding of the changing views, opinions and attitudes of the modern women, to bring about real engagement. Again very attainable through well designed and executed collaborative market research surveys.