Shopping for sustainable fashion is growing in importance for consumers – with 56% saying it is either very or somewhat important for them to buy sustainable fashion items. Although most people are conscious of the need to make their fashion choices more sustainable, this is easier said than done. Young people are particularly keen on the idea but are also most likely to buy an item and never wear it.

The onset of COVID-19 has made many think twice about where they want to shop and the importance of a transparent supply chain. People have become more communally minded, with half now more concerned about the welfare of fashion retail workers, while two in five care more about where fashion items come from than they did before COVID-19.

Most people feel that cheap fashion makes it easier for them to buy items they don’t need and yet, with people worried about their financial security, many may start to turn to fast fashion alternatives when shopping for new fashion items. This could have a detrimental effect on the environment as many items end up in landfill.

However, there is growing media coverage highlighting the environmental damage caused by fast fashion, while growing protests about the environment are making more people aware of these issues. This presents a big opportunity for retailers and brands to work together to create consistency around what it means to be a sustainable retailer and educate consumers on what they can do to improve the way they shop.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on the sustainable fashion market.

  • How consumers behaviours and attitudes have changed since COVID-19.

  • Consumer habits regarding sustainable fashion.

  • Where shoppers turn to when learning about sustainable fashion.

COVID-19: Market context

This update on the impact that COVID-19 is having on the market was prepared on 2 October.

The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the UK at the end of January, with a small number of cases in February. The government focused on the ‘contain’ stage of its strategy, with the country continuing to operate much as normal. As the case level rose, the government ordered the closure of non-essential stores on 20th March.

A wider lockdown requiring people to stay at home except for essential shopping, exercise and work ‘if absolutely necessary’ followed on 23rd March. Initially, a three-week timeframe was put on the measures, which was extended in mid-April for another three weeks.

The Health Protections Regulations 2020 came into effect on 15th June allowing the reopening of all non-essential stores in England, as well as the mandatory use of face coverings on public transport. However, Leicester became the first city in Britain to be placed in a local lockdown on June 29, after public health officials voiced concern at the city's alarming rise in Covid-19 cases. Non-essential shops were closed until 24th July and nail bars, outdoor pools and beauty salons were allowed to reopen in England from 19th August. In the rest of the country, pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers were able to reopen on 4th July.

From 24 July, it became mandatory to wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets.

During August and September, further local lockdowns have been ordered across the UK, particularly in the North West and North East regions, restricting movement and forbidding mixing between households.

From 24 September, it was ruled that all pubs, bars, and restaurants in England must close at 10pm as the UK’s COVID-19 alert moved to 4, meaning transmission is ‘high or rising exponentially’.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s central scenario included in its July 2020 Fiscal Sustainability Report. The scenario suggests that UK GDP could fall by 12.4% in 2020, recovering by 8.7% in 2021, and that unemployment will reach 11.9% by the end of 2020, falling to 8.8% by the end of 2021.

The current uncertainty, however, means there is wide variation on the range of forecasts, which is reflected in the OBR’s own scenarios. In its upside scenario, economic activity returns to pre-COVID-19 levels by Q1 2021. Its more negative scenario, by contrast, would mean that GDP doesn’t recover until Q3 2024.

Products covered in this Report

This Report is designed to give an overview of sustainable fashion, covering concerns including but not limited to:

  • Animal welfare

  • The impact of fashion on the environment

  • Sustainability across the supply chain

For the purpose of this Report and unless otherwise indicated, Mintel defines fashion as the following categories:

  • Clothing (including womenswear, menswear, childrenswear and underwear)

  • Footwear

  • Accessories (including bags, jewellery and watches)

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