With the impact of Brexit still uncertain, there are “huge concerns about distribution ahead of peak trading, as a result of customs checks and new tariffs if a deal with the EU cannot be struck”. The National Audit Office has warned that numerous traders and businesses are not ready for new customs and regulatory controls which will be enforced under a no-deal Brexit. Clyde Buntrock, CEO at logistics company AllPort Cargo, has advised fashion retailers to consider containerised sea freight. Buntock explains this would “avoid congestion via road and roll on/off through European gateways”.
Environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion continues to strike across London, occupying Oxford Circus, in its ongoing fight against fast fashion and the contribution to climate change.
Following new data, it has been predicted that fashion waste will cost the UK economy £4.48 billion by 2050 if the industry does not clean up its act and bolster its recycling efforts. The global fashion industry is responsible for 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions and a loss of more than £414 billion every year as a result of wasted clothing. A total of 73% of old clothing items are sent to landfill or are incinerated each year, equating to 2,625kg of wasted clothing.
Young fashion retailer Little Mistress is aware its consumers are becoming “conscious consumers” and introduced eco-friendly packaging on 15 October 2019.
A new initiative has also been launched by Adidas, in partnership with the London-based start-up Stuffsr, by offering consumers signed onto its UK loyalty programme the opportunity to return any items they have purchased from the brand in the past five years. The items that are returned, which will be accepted no matter what condition they are in, will be repaired where needed, resold where possible and as a final resort, recycled into new products. Stuffstr hopes this new initiative will shift current consumer behaviour away from fast and wasteful consumption, towards a more value-driven approach.
However, despite the growing concern for the environment, 62% of consumers are unwilling to pay more for eco-friendly online deliveries, making it difficult for retailers to balance becoming sustainable without extra cost. Amid the ongoing issue of cost and availability of sustainable materials, in the first half of 2019, only 1% of new products introduced by the mass-market apparel brands and retailers were tagged sustainable. This is despite the five-fold increase in the number of such items unveiled in the past two years. However, more than half of the industry players have confirmed they want at least 50% of their products to be made with sustainable materials by 2025.
Hadari Oshri, CEO of Xehar Technologies, hopes that blockchain technology can be used to reduce waste in the fashion industry. The industry has an inventory problem, with The New York Times reporting in March 2018 that H&M had $4.3 billion of unsold inventory on hand. Four months later, Business Insider revealed that Under Armour possessed over $1.3 billion in unsold inventory. Oshri explains that blockchain technology can help make “fast fashion more efficient by shifting the industry to a demand chain versus a supply chain”. The desired result is a more “streamlined industry with reduced end costs to the consumer”. This will enable retailers to carry the correct amount of “premium selling items in stock as the demand cycle shifts from season to season”.
Israeli innovators gathered at London’s Design Museum in Kensington recently to shed light on the latest retail technologies set to shape fashion businesses. Conversational commerce platform Mmuze “uses artificial intelligence to recreate the in-store shopping experience online, through a virtual personal shopping assistant”. The platform enables customers to interact with a brand (via voice or text conversation) and specify exactly what they are looking for. This prevents customers from scrolling through hundreds of items online, making their experience more convenient and personal.
Just nine months after being bought out of administration, HMV has opened its latest store in Birmingham. At 25,000 square feet, HMV’s new concept-store The Vault is its largest to date and Europe’s biggest music and entertainment retail space.
Lidl has committed to investing £15 billion into UK food, farming and production over the next five years, aiming to provide suppliers with “support and ability needed to invest and grow”.
After the collapse of Thomas Cook at the end of September, a husband and wife team who built their tourism business, Hays Travel, from the ground up say they have “offered nearly 2,000 of the company’s former staff a job and reopened 186 of its shops”.
With Christmas now less than nine weeks away, retailers are bracing themselves for what is expected to be the toughest festive season in a decade. The chair of one national retailer has expressed concern that 2019 will be “the worst Christmas since Woolworths collapsed” back in 2008, as the perfect storm of Brexit uncertainty, high property taxes and deep discounting grip the market.