How Retailers Can Respond to the Fast Fashion Catastrophe

Today’s consumers have gotten used to purchasing cheap clothing that they wear and dispose of much quicker than they did in the past. This is called “fast fashion,” it’s a recent phenomenon – and also an environmental and economic catastrophe. 

For retailers, it presents unique challenges that can, thankfully, be addressed if the right technology is in place. Then, retailers can be assured that they are fulfilling their ESG initiatives while growing their businesses. 

The History of Fast Fashion

Until the mid-20th century, fashion brands would create clothing for the four seasons, anticipating upcoming styles they thought consumers would buy. In the 1960s, the fashion industry started speeding up production and cutting back on costs to make clothing. The trend accelerated starting in the early 2000s, and in the present day, fast fashion brands create clothing for 52 microseasons per year; essentially, they put out a new collection each week.

Stores are highly stocked with clothing, and fashion brands respond to changes with extreme speed. That means that quality suffers. Companies and consumers are wasting unprecedented amounts of clothing. It’s taking a tremendous toll on the environment. Fast fashion is not sustainable — for the fashion industry, for the consumer, and for the planet.

The Impact of Fast Fashion 

The alarming statistics on fast fashion will tell you everything you need to know.

Since 2000, clothing production has doubled from 100 to 200 billion units a year, and the average number of times a consumer wears a garment has fallen by 36%. The fashion industry creates 10% of all carbon emissions in the world, which is more emissions than all maritime shipping and international flights combined. Fast fashion also pollutes the ocean with microplastics, which come from synthetic textiles and never biodegrade.

In terms of economics, more than $500 billion is lost each year because clothing is not recycled or used. Both consumers and retailers waste clothing; the latter throw it out or burn unused pieces. 

The fashion industry and retailers aren’t powerless, though. By addressing the fast fashion crisis and changing habits, they cannot only contribute to the sustainability of the planet, but also reduce waste, drive growth, and increase profit margins simultaneously.

Tackling Fast Fashion With Technology

Technology can provide the solutions we need to confront the issues with fast fashion. Tapping into real-time reporting for smarter business decisions is critical. 

Retailers can utilize an algorithm to pinpoint slow-moving fashion pieces in one store and send them to another one where they are selling at an average or fast speed. Then, they’ll avoid having to sell products at a discount or liquidating them altogether. They will also cut back on production costs since the inventory already exists.

AI optimization can offer the fashion industry the opportunity to make short-term predictions to determine what styles will become popular in the near future. Then, they can focus on producing those styles and delivering them to stores in time to optimize sales.

Inventory optimization software is another crucial piece of the puzzle. It monitors the actual demand of each SKU at each location where merchandise is placed, and then reacts in real time to guarantee the optimal inventory target at all times. It will make the necessary adjustments to pursue opportunities like production management, early liquidation, and lifecycle extension as well.

Responsible Practices and Your Bottom Line

The benefit of using innovative technology in the retail sector is clear: Retailers can do their part to curb negative fast fashion trends while reducing waste, increasing their bottom lines, and living up to ESG goals. 

The solution is clear. It’s a win-win for everyone – and critical to our planet’s future.