COVID sparks massive shift towards sustainable Christmas shopping

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a surge in interest in sustainability with almost a fifth (19%) of people in the UK planning to buy more sustainable Christmas gifts this year compared to last, according to research by the Fashion Retail Academy¹.

Environmentally conscious consumers are more common in London and Scotland compared to anywhere else in the UK, where this figure rises to a quarter (25%) of people.

Almost a third of shoppers (29.2%) in the UK said the pandemic had made them more conscious of sustainable fashion. Sustainable buying is being driven by our youngest adult demographic, with 37% of 18-24 planning to buy more environmentally friendly products compared to a year ago.

Despite this trend, coronavirus has had other unintended consequences after forcing millions to work from home. Changing working patterns are likely to explain why more than £115of unworn clothes are hanging untouched in people’s wardrobes across the country — a 40% increase in just over 18 months. A similar survey carried out in 2019 found people had on average £82 worth of unused clothes in their wardrobe².

This figure is highest among the 45-54 year olds, who, on average, have £139 in unused clothing, compared to £72 for 18-24 year olds. Women appear to be bigger clothes hoarders than their male counterparts, admitting that they have £126 worth of unworn clothing, while men estimate that they have £103 worth of unused clothes.

Those in the North East, Northern Ireland and London are the biggest culprits for having the highest value of unused clothes sitting idly in their wardrobes — £151, £138 and £136respectively — up to 31% more than the national average.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has also changed how and where people choose to spend their money due to working from home, avoiding public transport and avoiding crowded shopping centres, with online shopping continuing to enjoy a boom.

Local independent stores appear to be one of the net beneficiaries of the pandemic. A  fifth (20%) of UK shoppers are planning to do more Christmas shopping in local independent stores compared to last year, while only 13.8% of shoppers plan to do less.

With non-essential retailers in England allowed to reopen today following November’s lockdown, this new data from the Fashion Retail Academy suggests that this trend towards localism will continue into Christmas.

The increased interest in shopping in independent stores closer to home appears to be greatest among younger generations, with 32% of 18-24 year olds planning to do more local Christmas shopping, compared to 14% of the over 55s.

Meanwhile, the greatest proportion of people planning to shop locally across the UK are in Scotland, where almost three in 10 (28%) are planning to source gifts at independent stores close to home.

Lee Lucas, principal of the Fashion Retail Academy, says: “The pandemic has forced many of us to think about our impact on the planet and how wasteful we can be as a nation, and that means sustainability is in fashion like never before this winter.

“The shift towards sustainable shopping presents a great opportunity for retailers to widen their range of products to cater for this new type of environmentally-conscious consumer.

“With shops now finally open again after the second lockdown, retailers across the country should be mindful of product placement in stores, shop windows and advertising as consumers start to vote with their feet over sustainable goods.“

[1]This survey sampled 2,000 nationally representative respondents from 27/10/2020 to 29/10/2020.

[2]This survey sampled 2,000 nationally representative respondents from 28/02/2019 to 04/03/2019.

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