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EDITORIAL Fashion leads online growth – but shines the light on sustainability

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As shoppers gear up to going out once again – post 17 May, it is going to very much look like business-as-usual for many people – fashion has become the run-away success of the spring.

Figures from IMRG suggest that, as they get ready to leave their bubbles and their yoga pants behind, women have been spending like crazy online on new clothes. In fact, it saw a 98% increase in womenswear sales in April.

This explosion in online fashion isn’t limited to the UK, it has become a global phenomenon, with cross-border fashion and apparel ecommerce becoming the most popular category among shoppers worldwide.

Russia, Singapore and China lead the way and this offers a great growth opportunity for UK fashion retailers. Fashion is relatively easy to sell cross-border: if its fashionable and you have good pictures of it, then it will sell. It is also easy to ship, as many items are soft and less prone to damage on a long, global voyage, and are light enough to keep postage costs low.

But this upsurge in fashion buying presents the industry with a conundrum: how to meet this demand while also building a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly and ethical business.

The answer may well lie in the circular economy. Second-hand goods are set to be $2trn market by 2025, according to Statista, a large chunk of this being clothing and apparel. Building on the growing demand for luxury fashion, there is an opportunity to look at end of line Luxury items, as well as pre-love fashion items – and to look at making that a global business.

With companies such as MusicMagpie looking at rental models – admittedly for mobile phones, but it could work with luxury and pre-loved vintage fashion – there is a definite whiff of change surrounding global online retail. And riding this wave of change is set to make online retail – not just of fashion, but of everything – is going to be a key driver of growth in the months and years ahead.

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