Shoppers don’t all wake up in the morning with a simultaneous hankering for the item of the day – they’re driven by cyclical, measurable trends. Jenny Keown examines the trend-generating cultural shifts likely to affect retailers this year.
It was the morning of October 2, 2016. A frenzy of people was gathered in Auckland’s largest shopping centre, Sylvia Park, for the opening of Swedish apparel giant H&M. Beyoncé’s Get Me Bodied started up, and the impressive swag of staff in black t-shirts and jeans began a dance routine. They smiled, clearly enjoying themselves.
Yet a few metres away, behind the eager shoppers, sat a bunch of students who had taped black masking tape to their mouths to represent the silenced voices of the workers who make H&M’s clothing in unsafe conditions.
So, in a nutshell, here are the tensions inherent in fast fashion, played out in a mall in little old New Zealand. Even despite Kiwis’ love of personal space, 1,000 people still lined up for the opening of this store, because they had to be there, to be part of that experience, and couldn’t wait a day.
That is despite plentiful research and growing awareness that the fast fashion model is not sustainable. In the lead-up to the opening of H&M, Washington-based Workers Rights Consortium said hundreds of thousands of workers making H&M garments in factories in Bangladesh were doing so in dangerous conditions.
H&M country manager for Australia and New Zealand, Hans Andersson, defended the company in an interview with The Register shortly after its Kiwi opening, saying H&M works with around 850 suppliers in 32 countries, and its inspectors carry out more than 4,000 factory inspections per year to make sure no unsavoury practices find their way into its supply chain.
As we go in to 2017, these tensions in fast fashion and other retail sectors are going to heat up even more as consumers demand more transparency from brands about where and how they source and manufacture their products.
We will see a rise in independent clothing brands, with a genuine, ethical business ethos such as Mallu in Christchurch. This new retailer has partnered with a charity working in Kolkata, India, focused on getting women out of the sex trade and into garment work, earning a decent wage.
Yet just as the same consumer might shop at a global fashion brand, and the next day, at an independent ethical clothing business, the consumers of 2017 are hard to define, and in constant flux.
According to Euromonitor International’s Top 10 Global Consumer Trends for 2017, consumers’ identity is multidimensional, with shoppers more likely to have a hand in defining themselves and their needs.
We had a go at unpackaging this so-called multi-dimensional consumer into more bite-sized trends.