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Boxing Day sales: New research shows Brits are turning their backs on fast fashion

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Christobel Hastings
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Are we finally over fast fashion? New research has shown Brits are turning away from their unsustainable shopping habits out of concern for the environment. 

For many Brits, the Boxing Day sales are a rite of passage. After 24 hours cooped up with the family over Christmas, we ready ourselves to venture out into the crowds that will inevitably pour into our local shopping centres, buoyed by the prospect of nabbing all the early bargains. News reports on our TV screens will tell of dedicated shoppers who camped in the cold to improve their chances of success, record-breaking numbers of shoppers in big-name stores, and the odd injury sustained as the jostling gets a little too determined. And many of us will head straight to our favourite high-street shops to snap up last season’s trends. Except this year, things are a little different.

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Thanks to the powerful warnings from national treasure David Attenborough, the protests of Extinction Rebellion and the herculean efforts of one Swedish teenager by the name of Greta Thunberg, the climate crisis is now mainstream news, and concern for our great green planet’s wellbeing is at an all-time high. With a growing awareness of the impact our shopping habits have on the environment and the people that produce our favourite things, it seems that attitudes are slowly but surely changing for the better. This year, the rise of mindful shopping is affecting the boom of the Boxing Day sales.

According to new research from Barclaycard, growing concern for the environment means that shoppers will be spending a whopping £200m less in the post-Christmas sales. The survey found that nearly two-thirds of people (62%) intend to make fewer purchases than in previous years because of the potential environmental footprint of the Boxing Day bargains. Interestingly, the research also highlighted that 68% of women, who have been shown to exhibit a greater commitment to ethical living than men, will be cutting back on their sales purchases. 

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When it comes to fast fashion - cheap, style-conscious clothing that is produced quickly and unsustainably to meet demand for fresh-off-the-catwalk trends - the research shows that nearly the same percentage of shoppers (67%) plan to spend less on cheap clothes out of concern for the environmental impact of the production line. The figures also come in the wake of recent research from Mintel, which showed British women are moving away from their fast fashion habits and buying with sustainability in mind, with 47% of millennial women interested in how their clothes were made.

As promising as the figures are, there’s still a way to go until we wean ourselves off fast fashion, and by that same token, throwaway culture. Judging by the popularity of online retailers and Instagram-promoted brands cleverly marketed by social media influencers, online fast fashion still holds strong appeal for those looking for low-priced, trend-driven pieces. 

Even so, consumers are being more discerning in the way they shop. More than 60,000 people signed up to Oxfam’s Secondhand September scheme, whereby participants pledged to avoid purchasing new clothes that month, and a growing number of people are exploring more sustainable ways of shopping, such as buying vintage clothing, swapping with friends and exploring clothes rental services. Not to mention, buying less - in September, the UK clothing market shrank by 3.9 per cent compared with the same month in 2018. 

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The new figures are a welcome reminder that our collective consciousness of the need to curb our fast fashion habits is strong, and we are making positive, eco-friendly choices to lessen our impact on the environment. Now, we must continue to put pressure on fashion retailers and the wider industry who produce our clothing to be totally transparent about their supply chain, as well as lobby the government to implement schemes that both target the fast-fashion business model, and help the industry become more sustainable. 

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