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UK stores to reopen on June 15, but have consumers turned against fast fashion?

Published
May 25, 2020
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UK ‘non-essential’ stores now have a specific date for when they’ll be able to reopen — June 15. That date was set by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a briefing on Monday, despite his suggestion several weeks ago that June 1 might be the magic date.


Shops can reopen on June 15, but will consumers want to return?


However, it now seems that June 1 will be the day on which only outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen.

Regardless of the date, all those non-essential retailers will have to satisfy certain guidelines to make sure their stores are safe for both staff and customers.

It means fashion and beauty stores are likely to control the numbers allowed in, with queuing systems in place and with some products being quarantined after handling. 

The big question for fashion stores though is how will they operate changing rooms safely? And for beauty stores, it’s a similar issue, but this time around the subject of product testers. These are likely to disappear to be replaced by ‘virtual’ testing, although many shops won’t have this functionality for now.

WILL SHOPPERS RETURN?

And a further huge question for fashion is how keen will shoppers be to start buying fashion again?

A trickle of shoppers is expected at first due to ongoing Covid-19 fears, but there also seem to be expectations that the UK shopper in June 2020 will be a very different animal from the shopper of February 2020.

A new survey from the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has found an increasing number of Britons are turning against fast fashion and, post-coronavirus, are more interested in brands focusing on sustainability.

Some 35% of women said they plan to buy fewer fashion items in the future, according to the survey. It also showed that during the pandemic, 28% of people have been recycling or reusing more of their fashion purchases than they usually would.

Additionally, more than half of consumers have bought fewer clothes than usual during lockdown, although this could be a consequence of them having nowhere to show them off, as well as the difficulty in buying them. 

But 83% also believe that clothes should be longer-lasting and repairable. And these attitudes are particularly prevalent among the younger age groups at which much fast fashion is targeted.

Josie Warden, associate director at the RSA, highlighted some of the issues that consumers are focusing on as they shift their attitudes. They include the waste that fashion produces and poor labour conditions. And she said that like the backlash over ocean plastics, we could see rapidly evolving consumer behaviour after the pandemic. “Concerns about these impacts are quickly rising up the public agenda and this is another issue on which citizens are demanding rapid change,” she said.

Of course, these attitudes could shift back again once life normalises and consumers have occasions for which they might want to buy new clothes. And the study did also show that 40% of consumers are keen to get back to shopping post-lockdown. 

But it’s clear that the anti-fast fashion argument has been strengthened by the pandemic and its associated lockdown. And with both the British Fashion Council and Council of Fashion Designers of America both last week calling for fashion to slow down and produce less, it’s also clear that fashion retail might never be the same again.

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