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Doing fast fashion sustainably

Fast fashion presents a rare success story amid the UK’s tricky retail climate. Lucy Douglas explores how retailers maintain profitability despite sustainability concerns.

On 15 January, online fashion retailer Boohoo released a trading update. The numbers were good: for the four months ending 31 December 2018, the group’s revenue was up 44%. It saw double-digit growth across all of its brands and all of the territories it operates in, including the UK.

The success of Boohoo stands out against a wider retail landscape that has been characterised by its ongoing struggles. According to the Centre for Retail Research, store closures and job losses are both predicted to rise 19% in 2019. Factors including rising rents and business rates are pushing up operating costs for high-street businesses and, as more customers go shopping online, it becomes harder to justify a large store footprint.

According to Lisa Hooker, partner, head of consumer markets at PwC, consumer spending might be more resilient than some observers expect. She notes that the under 25s are more positive than any other customer segment and the only group that still prioritises buying fashion.

Part of Boohoo’s appeal to younger consumers is its prices: dresses and tops are as little as £5. Missguided, H&M and Primark also sell items for as little as a couple of pounds.

This is an extract from the Business & Management Magazine, Issue 273, April 2019.

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