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The Day the World Stops Shopping: Sustainability and Fashion Brands

by Samara Morris

During my time as an undergrad at the Fashion Institute of Technology, I read this book, “The Day the World Stops Shopping” by J.B. Mackinnon, which talks about overconsumption and how it’s damaging our planet.

Image Credit: We Are / Getty Images

Not only that, but as consumers, we’re aware of the damage but cannot seem to stop shopping. The book draws its reader in by asking a very good question: Is there a way to reduce our consumption to Earth-saving levels without triggering economic collapse? The solution is not to reduce spending, but to reduce where we do the spending. When COVID happened, MacKinnon’s ideas were tested in real-time. If we remember, during lockdown the air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions drastically decreased within a few weeks.

A study conducted by Packaging World compared the key differences between online versus brick-and-mortar shopping, citing that shopping online leads to five times more returned products—40% of online purchases are returned in comparison to 7% in the case of shopping at a brick-and-mortar store. Also, when we compare packaging for items bought online versus in stores—packing, bubble wrap, etc., to the emissions associated with the use of a plastic bag, it’s less as well.

The reality is overconsumption is killing the planet, and brick-and-mortar stores are partially to blame. The article from Packaging World seemed to leave out important factors such as gas, distance, travel, the lapse in quality when buying in stores—consumers trying on clothes in the fitting room that will only go back on the shelves, uncleaned and wrinkled. Shopping is becoming a habit that many resort to as a distraction from life’s personal problems.

E-commerce has seen an uptick in sales over the past three years once consumers realized they could achieve the same results from the comfort of their sofa—shopping for clothes, having food delivered, watching theatrical releases on streaming three weeks after they hit theaters. I mean, there appear to be more pros than cons when it comes to convenient shopping.

Many brick-and-mortar clothing stores are struggling to stay afloat, but their doors closing could actually be good for the economy and the environment. Less money spent on rent, light, security, display, etc., can mean more money invested in quality products and customer service. If consumers could enjoy earning revenue from home, saving on gas and spending less money on commute, they can invest more in shopping.

With this extra revenue, brands can segue into more sustainable practices, only investing in fabric that can be recycled and reused. The French clothing brand, LUEQ\., has adapted this marketing strategy that has seen great success in Europe and soon, the United States. The brand does not want to partner with companies such as Neiman Marcus, Saks, or Nordstrom, instead focusing on direct-to-consumer sales and hosting invite-only pop-up shows across the New York and California metropolitan areas.

LUEQ\. is very big on offering quality products at an affordable price point. The brand is able to do this due to cutting costs for a brick-and-mortar store and having no middle man to split profit revenue. The consumer gets the absolute best they have to offer.

After announcing their expansion, LUEQ\. secured over $1M in pre-order sales for their basics collection, and this is without having ever seen the product, only the fabrics used to create it. Consumers want quality and affordability. Selling cotton for $2,300 is not sustainable in the long term. There has to be a balance between luxury, branding, and affordability. Despite what many headlines read about overconsumption, we believe the culprit to be capitalism and corporate greed.

Brick-and-mortar stores for clothing are no longer a necessity, a convenience, and, in some cases, aesthetically pleasing, yes, but not a must-have. Packaging has evolved as well, with many companies opting for specialized packaging that consumers can plant and/or recycle. Overall, the only reason stores are fighting tooth and nail to convince consumers that their stores are needed is that they've spent thousands on rent and are in leasing contracts they can be penalized for breaking.

Fashion retailer Express seems to be struggling to find its footing in the retail space. In late August, the company executed a reverse stock split and said it planned to cut 150 jobs by the end of Q3. With a brick-and-mortar store, the likelihood of overstock is higher, versus online retail. When consumers change their minds about what they prefer to shop for, brick-and-mortar stores are left with the responsibility of clearing out the old, replacing it with new, and then marking down the out-of-date trends.

This is problematic as well. The economy is unpredictable, and trends change so quickly that a fashion retailer should never brand themselves as being the go-to for one type of trend. In this case, Express was known for its business attire, and then once COVID happened, this attire was no longer needed, and athleisure came into play. Lululemon swept in and took their customers.

Overall, sustainable practices come when fashion retailers decide that brick and mortar are not a necessity; quality, convenience, and affordability are the real keys to success.

If you're looking for a fresh new look and wish to be the first to access the complete collection from LUEQ\., debuting Spring 2024, be sure to grab your tickets now!


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