'Fast fashion' is a term which was coined to describe the quick turnover of designs in the fashion industry that move straight from the catwalk to current trends to the hanger - sometimes in less than a week.
This entire notion has changed the industry and has disrupted retail as we know it.
2019 is a very different place even to ten years ago. We now live in a ‘fast’ society; fast food, fast-track delivery, super-fast broadband, and of course, fast fashion. So, just what is the state of fast fashion in the UK in 2019?
MyVoucherCodes has studied 30 of the UK's leading fast fashion brands, analysing several factors and surveying 2,000 individuals to discover just how 2019 is shaping up for the industry. What are our true thoughts and feelings about our recent shopping habits?
2019 is home to entirely new generations. Millennials and Gen Z are overtaking baby boomers and Gen X in so many areas, but is fast fashion one of them? We surveyed 2,000 people to find out, on average, how much is spent with fast fashion brands every year.
Perhaps surprisingly, 35-44 year olds spend the most each year with fast fashion retailers, spending around £257. This compares to £189 spent by 18-24 year olds.
The average Brit spends £187 every year with fast fashion brands.
Price is clearly one of the motivating factors behind many of those shopping with fast fashion brands. When asked, on a scale of 1-5 how much the affordability/low price of items affects their choice to shop with the brand, 69% answered 4 or higher.
Available discounts, again, appear to be extremely prominent decision-making factors amongst customers of fast fashion brands. In fact, when we asked shoppers whether discount impacts their purchase decisions, 93% answered yes.
At the time of research, many of the brands studied offered a sitewide sale across the store, with headlines such as '70% off everything, including sale'. In fact, 11 out of the 30 (37%) had a discount available across all items.
Many fast fashion brands, perhaps unsurprisingly, have a student discount, offering up to 50% with proof of student ID. This could be a contributing factor to the lower-than-average £189 a year spent by those in the student age group.
The average student discount in fast fashion is 19%. 30% of brands don't offer student discounts at all, however, with the exception of Boohoo, who offer free delivery to all students until their graduation. In comparison to other sectors, the industry offers the highest percentage discounts, aside from food and drink. With offers such as 50% off for many restaurants, this is an average which is difficult to beat. Entertainment and health and beauty student discounts come in around 17% whereas stationary and tech offer around 16% average discount.
Payment plans, finance and spread-the-cost are becoming increasingly common, and customers are opting for the more affordable-right-now option. Whether it be cars on finance or a fast fashion shopping spree, younger generations are finding these options are a great support system. Klarna is a popular service which lets you spread payment or defer payments until a later date and ⅓ of the fashion brands researched offer this payment option alongside other offerings.
It's clear where the hub of fast fashion is - Manchester. Out of the 30 brands we studied, 12 of them are living and breathing in the rainy city of the North - and that's not even including the UK-based headquarters of internationally born brands.
As the landscape is changing, it may be obvious that Manchester is the place for fashion brands to carve out their identify and make themselves increasingly known. Is there an advantage in being able to attract talent in the North with fewer competitors knocking on their doors?
With a vibrant textile history, a recent resurgence in the industry and a growing hub of creativity, Manchester could be the heart of fast fashion for years to come.
How do we really perceive fast fashion? With all the news articles, documentaries and conversations about the industry and its impact on our planet, our lives and our pockets, it's a given that we all have an opinion on the sector.
We asked the nation whether they see the industry in more of a positive or negative light.
The majority of those asked had a neutral stance on the matter. 30% see the industry in a negative light and only the remaining 8% see the sector with positivity.
Our time is precious. Society has changed and not only do we want everything now, but it is possible. At the click of a button, we can have almost anything - and for a reasonable price. So, based on how convenient and cheap it is to pick up a new outfit, do we really care if we don't wear it or don't return it?
It was surprising to see that 4 in 10 admit to having purchased an item from a fast fashion brand and have never worn it. We wanted to do a little more digging into why this is.
Shockingly, Brits typically won't bother to return an item which cost less than £11.70 - with this slightly lower for women (£8.56) and higher for men (£15.70). It's clear that we're precious with our time and that we're not motivated to return cheaper items.
But how much do easy returns impact our choice of where to shop?
We asked the public on a scale of 1-5, how much returns and fast delivery encourage them to shop with a brand...
Delivery is obviously a strong contender as our top shopping priorities, and it seems many of our favourite brands understand this. Many now offer unlimited delivery options as part of a VIP club and annual payment, whilst others offer free delivery over a certain amount.
The average UK delivery cost amongst fast fashion retailers sits at around £3.74, while the average threshold for free delivery is an average of £46.
20 out of the 30 brands we studied don't offer an unlimited free delivery option, but those who do set the average cost at around £10.10 per year.
Trust in a brand is important to many people, but when it comes to fast fashion brands, reputation can often put us off. But, the reviews and opinions of the public speak higher volumes than press releases and news articles.
The endless churning of videos depicting ‘What I Ordered vs. What I Got’ orders from fast fashion brands may be entertaining, but are they the proof we really need? Many of us have experienced a wardrobe malfunction at one point, but these brands could be taking matters to new extremes.
We also asked the public, on a scale of 1-5 how much quality, brand reputation and company values/ethics impact their decision to shop with a specific fast fashion brand.
It’s well-known that operating only in-store is now obsolete, but it seems that what was once simply store-based, fashion is becoming online-only. Out of the 30 brands we looked into, 17 only operate online. Some brands who are also known for their store operations are branching out to online purchasing such as Primark (currently still only in-store), with Missguided now running one store, in Kent.
The fast fashion brand which is dominating both is H&M. With over 4000 stores worldwide, an impressive, steady flow of online traffic and a strong social media base, their strategy seems to be working well. They are also one of the oldest brands in the list which makes sense, as they have had longer to build up a following, both in-store and online and make a smooth transition between the two.
Fashion brands are no strangers to social media marketing. It seems that the audience of followers and ‘loyal celebs’ do part of the advertising for them, with millions of people hashtagging and sharing content every day. We are familiar with many brands due to their Instagram movements and celebrity-based campaigns, so are we purchasing these products partly down to the hypnotising Insta content? Or do we just appreciate entertaining content? Does it make a difference to our spending habits?
The social influence of fast fashion brands is a huge contributing factor. Alongside online searches, this is perhaps the biggest indicator of just how ‘popular’ a brand is. We studied website traffic, visits, amount of UK traffic, monthly search volume on Google, social media following and Insta tags to find out just what the most-loved fast fashion brand of 2019 is.
H&M comes out as our overall champion. This may be due to its long reign on the fashion throne in comparison to other new brands, as well as its global audience. The company was founded in Sweden in the 1940s and now has branches all over the world. It does have one of the lowest levels of UK traffic, which means that overall, us Brits aren't the biggest fans. In fact, we contribute to under 10% of the overall traffic. Nonetheless, they seem to be taking charge worldwide, when it comes to fast fashion.
We asked the UK how much influence and how ‘on-trend’ the items are truly matters to them…
Over the last couple of years, it's become apparent that the fast fashion industry is not just changing our bank statements, but also our environment. From global warming scares to extreme use of water and pollution, some of these brands and their impact can cause serious concern amongst consumers. How can a brand get a product from concept to the hanger in less than a week?
We asked 2,000 UK fast fashion customers whether they do their bit and delved a little further into their concerns...
Consumers may be doing their bit for sustainability, but just what are the brands doing to assist and how are the consumers interacting with these values?
Over recent years, brands have had to make changes in order to put our planet first. Whether this is a change in materials or their supply chain, in the future it may mean that prices will rise. But with fashion brands having such a loyal following, their customers would support them surely? We wanted to find out.
The data reveals that 53% of fast fashion brands don't openly offer a recycling scheme or a sustainable line of clothing within their brand. While some utilise apps or even boast drop-off points for recycling, others don't even try. It turns out that the majority of customers don't use these services when offered, however. Is this due to not being aware of the services or because they simply don't exist?
The reGAIN app seems to be a big contender, and its use is becoming much more widespread. Their partners include PrettyLittleThing, Boohoo, Missguided, InTheStyle, Femme Luxe and many more. The app essentially helps shoppers to turn unwanted clothes into discount coupons - an incentive for happy shoppers and a step towards a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly industry.
Some brands such as Topshop and Beyond Retro have their own recycled range, selling products from recycled clothing brought back or recycled textiles. It turns out that some will actually go out of their way to purchase reused/recycled/vintage items on a regular basis or will re-sell on eBay or Depop.
Some brands have no trace of working with or alongside a recycling scheme, and if they are, they aren't being open about their contribution as there is no sign on their website. 16 out of the 30 brands we looked into don't openly have a recycled clothing line or are attached to a recycling app such as reGAIN.
But, perhaps the biggest question is, do we care? With all the media speculating on the sustainability of brands, has this come from the consumers themselves? Is it a detrimental factor on our shopping habits?
We asked the public, on a scale of 1-5, how much the environmental impact of the fast fashion brand encourages you (or discourages you) to shop with them. It seems, as a nation of consumers, that we're fairly neutral to the impacts, with only 10% actively avoiding purchasing from these brands due to this.
Our interest in certain areas of fashion have changed over time. It seems like fast fashion came out of nowhere, but when did the fascination and the birth of so many brands happen? Was there a particular point or year? We looked into Google search data and trends of fast fashion terms to see for ourselves.
‘Fast fashion’ is currently in the spotlight. The interest seemed to dip at some point in early 2018 but is at its ultimate peak right now. Before 2019 it seemed we wanted everything but fast fashion. However, it's obvious it's always had some interest and curiosity behind it, especially from 2008 onwards. The same goes for sustainable fashion. There was a peak in 2008 when our interest in fast fashion became apparent, but now, in 2019, we have never been so interested in how sustainable our fashion brands are.
‘Second-hand fashion’ seems to be the anomaly here. We care about sustainability and the sudden burst of fast fashion brands, however, the same peak that these two terms are getting at the moment is not happening for second-hand fashion. Would we rather have quick, on-trend fashion, with cheap delivery and easy returns than shop second hand?