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Consumers Want More Eco-Friendly Apparel
February 9, 2012
A new survey shows consumers want to buy more eco-friendly apparel, but have trouble finding it.
Style with Substance – a report by Ryan Partnership Chicago/Mambo Sprouts Marketing – notes that despite the challenge, consumers intend to double their eco-apparel purchases this year, creating a growth opportunity for mainstream retailers.
In 2011, the top eco-apparel categories were footwear (23%), active/workout wear (21%), and women's casual wear (21%), with green options purchased by about one in five respondents. While seven in ten (69%) considered eco/sustainability at least sometimes when purchasing clothing in 2011, eco-fashion purchase intent doubles in nearly every category in 2012, with these so-called “gateway categories” reaching 48%, 47%, and 47%, respectively.
While price will always be top-of-mind, lack of availability appeared to be a strong limiting factor. About one in three (33%) of those who don't regularly consider sustainability in their apparel purchases said they didn't buy sustainable because it wasn't available where they shop and one in four (28%) said they didn't even know where to purchase eco/sustainable clothing.
"The data is showing a strong interest in eco/sustainable apparel. This represents a growth opportunity, especially if manufacturers and retailers make it easier to find," said Christine Nardi Diette, group president, Ryan Partnership Chicago.
When shoppers do buy eco/sustainable, more than half (57%) said they became aware of eco-attributes through product tags, while a third (37%) credited in-store information. Fewer than one in four use digital means to seek out eco/sustainable information through online search (23%) and brand websites (22%).
Notably, a majority of shoppers (61%) expressed interest in an Apparel Sustainability Rating or Index. One consumer said, "It would be a tipping point if I were choosing between two products of similar price and quality or might persuade me to buy the more expensive product."
Diette points out that eco/organic food, personal care and cleaning products have already overcome this eco-awareness hurdle. "We believe sustainable apparel may be next if the industry can pull together with a similar effort to better market the category," Diette said.
The survey shows that shoppers seek eco-conscious apparel at mainstream retailers where they shop, suggesting those products represent an immediate growth opportunity for all apparel retailers, not just niche shops. "We believe there's a case to be made for more consistent and impactful eco-apparel product labeling and compelling point-of-sale signage. A 'store-within-a-store' concept for this category could significantly increase shopper perception of availability as well, eliminating a major barrier to purchase," Diette said.
Also, the report revealed eco-conscious consumers aren't willing to trade fit or durability, and rank a number of "sustainable" factors at the same level of importance in their purchase decision, such as "fun" and "fashionable." With the growing availability of a range of stylish yet sustainable apparel options, today's shoppers can have it all – if they can find it.
Earlier this week, Nike announced a partnership to pursue a waterless dyeing process to reduce the environmental impact of fabric production.
Bart King is a PR consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications.