The Truth Behind Sales & Markdowns
Understanding the fashion system involves exposing the hidden environmental costs of frequent fashion promotions and sales. Aiming for sustainability in the fashion industry is critical to saving the planet.
Sales used to occur at the end of the season only. But now, promotions and markdowns are frequent. What’s changed in the fashion industry? Since fashion became finance and brands became properties of corporations, profit has been the only logic guiding the fashion industry. Corporations use overproduction to maximise profit; sales are part of the game.
The negative impact of fashion sales
Sales apparently are a way to get a deal on clothing and other products. But, they contribute to a bigger problem in our society: the value of clothing and the labour that goes into making it is not recognised. In other words, sales devalued product quality and labour.
Sales perpetuate an unsustainable production cycle that harms our planet. To support this profit-driven system, they fuel impulsive buying, encouraging people to buy things they don’t need. Additionally, when brands play a pricing game with their products, it can call into question their credibility. On the one hand, brands praise the value of their products. But a month later, this value has halved. Who are they kidding?
However, overconsumption and overproduction are two faces of the same coin: capitalism, an economic system that values profits above all else.
Despite the apparent fascination, thinking individuals should consider the detrimental impact of sales on the planet and people. With overproduction and fashion waste visible from space, the fashion industry significantly contributes to climate crises, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation. In fact, the recent UN guidelines underscore the urgent need to combat unsustainable consumption patterns.
The call is clear: curbing overconsumption. To do so, we must acknowledge sales and frequent markdowns as symptoms of a profit-oriented system that harms our environment. But, to find solutions, first, we must grasp how the fashion system operates.
The fashion system: who does it work?
Brands pressure retailers to meet escalating budget demands each season (minimum amount or quantity). That leads to excessive purchasing beyond actual retailers’ demand. To ensure profits for brands, retailers buy more than they can sell.
Excess inventory drives up retail prices because high quantities of merchandise are sold only during sales. So, higher prices throughout the season partially cover this loss.
Lastly, overstock forces retailers into a cycle of frequent discounts and promotions, aiming to encourage more purchases from end consumers.
This interconnected cycle of consumption and production cannot be rectified by addressing only one aspect without considering the other. In this context, we cannot trust brands who preach sustainable fashion.
Solutions: sustainable fashion practices
Sustainable fashion practices for retailers: Stop Sales!
• Reduce the quantities of clothing and accessories ordered per season. If brands do not accept lower orders, do not buy from them. By preventing overstock, retailers can maintain fair prices throughout the year. Both retailers and consumers would benefit from this.
• Refrain from excessive discount events like Black Fridays, promotions, and sales. Customers are no longer willing to buy at the true value of a garment.
• Educate consumers to prioritise quality over quantity, investing in durable, timeless pieces and understanding the value behind their purchases.
What Consumers Can Do: be agents of change!
• Don’t contribute to the climate crisis. Change the system: make conscious choices.
• Buy less, much less during the season. Take only quality items that complement your existing wardrobe; reuse clothes.
• Avoid trendy items; embrace a timeless aesthetic that transcends fleeting fashion. Remember, quality endures – good design transcends trends. It doesn’t have an expiry date.
Ultimately, sales aren’t sustainable. Understanding the fashion system, how brands’ pressure on retailers drives over-purchasing, inflates retail prices, prompting endless discounts, and addressing both consumption and overproduction, is vital for impactful change.
Let’s make conscious decisions about what we consume, nurturing a sustainable world for generations to come.