Monday night’s Dispatches episode showed the price people pay for fast fashion – not the bargains consumers are bagging, but the plight of people producing these garments. So will this exposé alter the way people shop? Will it pull on our heartstrings enough to make us shop elsewhere? FSP predicts not.
Workers in cramped, dirty conditions being paid £3 an hour without access to a fire exit - this wasn’t a sweat shop in the third world, but a factory in Leicester - producing clothes for some of the UK’s biggest clothing retailers.
The murky world of subcontracting allowed River Island and New Look to claim they had no knowledge of work being supplied to these factories. The fact is that with the rapid growth of online giants Boohoo and Missguided, traditional young fashion retailers are having to fight hard to remain competitive. Cutting costs of manufacture becomes inevitable when you have a demanding customer base.
Retailers that featured in the documentary all share the same customer base - 18-25s. These customers:
- Are high users of social media – FSP surveys show 92% of 18-25s regularly use social media. Sharing photos through Instagram and Facebook make it harder to get away with wearing an outfit more than once - the need to have new clothes and change your look is more prevalent amongst this age group than any other. BUT…
- They’re cash strapped – With people in their 20s earning on average 24% less than those in their thirties, 18-25s are exceptionally price conscious. The cocktail of needing new clothes combined with low incomes means their wallet plays the largest role in dictating where they shop
- They will go online – This age band are 16% more likely to shop online than other age groups. They hunt around for bargains and purchase through social media – this applies even more pressure to the likes of River Island and New Look to drive down prices
These factors mean it’s unlikely to slow down the demand for cheap clothes. Boohoo and Missguided have seen unprecedented growth in the last year. UK sales at Boohoo jumped 38% in the 6 months to end of August 2016, with stronger growth posted over Christmas. Missguided had similar results, with sales increasing 34% for their financial year (ending March 2016), vs previous year.
There’s a huge appetite for low price clothes, Primark’s continued success is testament to this. With interest rates dipping and tough times ahead for the UK – things are only likely to get tougher, putting more pressure on retailers’ pricing.
Ultimately, for 18-25s it’s purse strings, not heartstrings, that dictate where they shop – although the Dispatches documentary provided food for thought, there are stronger influencing factors that will push this age bracket to purchase cheap, fast fashion for the foreseeable future.