With the best scientists in the world warning that we have a ten year window to start making some serious change, this black swan event could be the awakening we all need to check the pace at which we’ve been living and consuming. Being forced into a slower paced life with less money coming in for many Americans, there’s increased consciousness of how we've been consuming and how it’s impacted our health and the health of our planet. This global time-out could be the start of a new normal where increasingly mindful consumers are demanding better products from increasingly mindful brands, especially in the apparel industry. Here’s 5 ways COVID will change our consumer habits for the better:
We’ll put more consideration into how our products were made before we buy.
With less money coming in and more time to consider how money is going out, people are paying more attention to where their dollars are ending up. We want them to be invested in brands we trust to make the most out of them (i.e. fair wages for factory workers, a sustainable supply chain etc.) For the first time, we’re able to see how supply chain is the underlying root cause of climate change (think the drastic drop in air pollution seen in maps of India and China since COVID related shut downs). When before, big brands wanted to keep conversations surrounding climate change vague so they wouldn’t have to make changes in how they do business, now they’re being forced to address their supply chain’s role in climate change head on.
We’ll buy more from direct-to-consumer brands and less from big retailers.
A lot of big retailers were already in a questionable place before the COVID outbreak. Now they have huge amounts of inventory that they won’t be able to make money on. For some big retailers the losses will be too much to bounce back from. This will open the market for direct-to-consumer brands who offer a more on-demand model and are able to respond more efficiently to produce what consumers are showing they want. This model of only producing what a brand knows they can sell is much more sustainable than the current over production model that has become the norm in the apparel industry. And the best part? As consumers, when we buy directly from brands online, we know we’re getting the best value because the D2C price doesn’t include lofty retail markups.
We’ll buy clothing in the season it was meant to be worn.
Enough buying our summer outfits in February already! By resetting the fashion calendar so that product is actually hitting the floor in the season it’s intended to be worn, we won’t see the crazy markdowns that typically occur in the market. This might seem like a bad thing if you love your end of the season sales but if an item can be marked down 70%, maybe we should consider how it’s being priced in the first place. With smaller amounts of clothing hitting the market in the appropriate season, brands will be able to create more product that’s selling and create less product that isn’t. This is not only good for us as consumers because brands are actually listening to us, it also means brands will have less waste and be more profitable.
We’ll have more access to responsibly made products.
The apparel industry especially has become dependent on low labor rates. Production of fast fashion has moved from China to Bangladesh to Africa, all to find the cheapest manufacturing rates. It takes a black swan event like COVID to finally shift this standard because it's the brands who’ve been chasing low labor rates who’ll be the most heavily impacted. In contrast, the brands who’ve established responsible production practices will have the opportunity to rise up and connect with consumers to create a culture where responsible manufacturing practices are rewarded and become the new norm.
We’ll buy more made-In USA and small batch products.
As brands have moved production overseas in search of cheaper labor rates, they’ve lost control and integrity in their supply chains. This became a huge problem when factories started shutting down due to COVID. In the wake of this pandemic, localized, resilient supply chains in the US are more appealing than ever. We can only hope this will lead to a future with more quality products in the market and less junk. Whether brands switch to domestic production or stay overseas, to survive they’ll need to create tighter, more transparent supply chains that can respond more effectively and sustainably to consumer demand. In the wake of COVID can emerge a culture where the relationship between brands and consumers is more collaborative, where consumers hold the power to shape the pace and practices with which products are made.