Consumers Want Better Products Without Paying More

ASOS Africa AW17

By Staff | News
Posted Oct 3, 2016

Do you put your money where your values are? Going out of your way to seek ethically and sustainably produced goods,  and paying a little more for them? Then you are in a rare crowd.

According to recent data released by Verdict Retail, 60 percent of consumers say a retailer’s sustainability performance is important to them when shopping for clothing and footwear. However, only 15.6% of people in the same survey said they wouldn’t buy from a retailer that’s not upfront about its eco-friendly credentials. No wonder brands and retailers are slow to change.

As readers of this blog know, ethical consumerism is not a new movement. And while it appears to be a no-brainer for a retailer to ensure that its practices are ethical, the fact remains that it requires a fundamental change in existing supply chain practices of retailers and the investment case for such change is not that straightforward. According to Verdict, despite growing awareness, ethical consumerism still remains a fairly niche market; with not enough people willing to pay more for eco-friendly/sustainable clothing to warrant huge company transformations to ethical trading.

This is exhibited through responses that showed while only 20.2% of consumers said they would not pay more for environmentally-friendly or sustainable products, just 3 percent would pay more than 21 percent extra. Which means a shirt like this $10.90 tee, with zero transparency or certifications gets purchased far more often than this $15.99 tee made from fair-trade, organic cotton and manufactured in a fair-trade factory.

Verdict reports this signals the crucial point that as consumers’ disposable incomes are squeezed, the lure of sustainably produced clothing alone will not be enough for them to part with their cash. Consumers demand style, range, quality and value for money alongside ethical credentials, as evidenced by the fact that the clear winners in the sustainability stakes are collections such as H&M Conscious, Topshop Reclaim and ASOS Africa which put style at the forefront of their proposition along with sustainable credentials.

Verdict data indicates that of consumers who had not bought any sustainable or eco-friendly clothing in that last few years, 31.1% did not do so because they thought products were too expensive. While higher prices on sustainable clothing are unavoidable due to costlier supply chain operations, retailers must justify these via design detail, innovation and quality to give consumers more reason to purchase these products. Availability and range are also key considerations, given that 18.8% of consumers did not buy any sustainable or eco-friendly clothing because they felt it was not easily available, while 17.5% did not do so because they feel there is not enough choice.

Read Kate’s tips on how to shop ethically on a budget.


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