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Take a more sustainable approach to fast fashion

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Bryan Turner, Partner at Spear Capital, explains how the TK Maxx of Africa is breathing new life into the European fast fashion industry

It is estimated that the global fashion industry is currently worth about 2tln. fast mode at large as cheap clothes produced by mass retailers that replicate runway and haute couture designs are an increasingly large part of that pie. As economies around the world recover from the effects of the pandemic (albeit unevenly), fast fashion is set to see growth in 20% overrun this year.

It is also a global phenomenon, Africa being no exception. In recent years, major fast-fashion retailers such as H&M, Zara and Mango have opened outlets on the continent. Overall, this presence was dominated by physical outlets. It’s not that surprising. Prior to COVID-19, e-commerce accounted for just 1.4% of South African retail trade in 2018. For the continent’s most mature economy, this is a particularly low figure.

But in the past two years, things have changed dramatically. E-commerce should represent 4% of retail sales in 2021 and reached 15% in some categories. This means there is a significant opportunity for retailers, especially those without physical stores.

The seasonal importance

This opportunity becomes even more obvious and attractive when you remember the seasonal differences between Europe and Southern African countries. This means that European retailers can make the most of that year’s winter or summer collections beyond their home markets.

Recognizing this opportunity, my track stocks some of the biggest retailers in Europe and the US and sells it to the South African market. While this has always been part of the plan, the impact of COVID-19 has undoubtedly accelerated the process. Support from SPEAR Capital, which recently increased its investment in MyRunway, has helped it accelerate even faster.

For European brands themselves, taking a priority approach online through a website like MyRunway also means they can explore new markets without investing heavily in infrastructure or a physical retail presence.

A more sustainable approach

Of course, when talking about fast fashion, it’s impossible not to mention environmental impact and sustainability. In recent years, some fast fashion players have come under fire for what are perceived to be unsustainable and environmentally unfriendly practices.

According to a study: The fashion industry is currently responsible for more annual carbon emissions than all international flights and shipping combined. It’s also true that millions of tons of clothes end up in landfill every year. Brands all over the world have recognized this as an issue and are embarking on all sorts of initiatives to improve their sustainability.

Taking an online approach of the type that brands use with MyRunway is a quick win on that front. By effectively giving brands extended seasons, they can sell more of their stock. Additionally, this approach allows them to build inventory and ship based on demand, rather than shipping large quantities of goods that may not sell.

Necessarily flexible

The last two years have also taught us the importance of flexibility. When global trade all but came to a standstill in 2020, many of the world’s biggest brands had to deal with what had the makings of a major crisis. A traditional location-based approach can make it incredibly difficult to survive such a crisis, especially in hard-hit geographies.

An online approach, via a site like MyRunway, is much less risky, especially for brands exploring new markets. After the last two years, this will only become more of an imperative.

Always evolving

Far more than most other industries, fashion isn’t afraid to embrace change and innovation. There’s no reason it can’t take that attitude when it comes to exploring new markets in a way that benefits both brands and the environment.

Sources

1/ https://Google.com/

2/ https://supplychaindigital.com/sustainability/taking-more-sustainable-approach-fast-fashion

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