The news that Depop – one of Gen Z’s favorite apps for buying and selling second-hand clothes – had been sold to Etsy for $ 1.6 billion is a wake-up call for fashion retailers. For years, traditional retailers and “fast fashion” companies have moved too slowly on the sustainability front. Etsy’s acquisition of Depop shows buyers, led by an eco-conscious Gen Z, are taking matters into their own hands, and it has business appeal.
The fashion industry has been slow to incorporate sustainability-oriented practices into production and retail, leave a space for new disruptive redistribution models to meet consumer preferences. In 2020, the number of new Depop users increased by 163% compared to the previous year, with a 200% traffic growth and 300% sales increase. Its immense popularity is a reflection of the success of sustainable redistribution markets, especially among young users.
Fashion for an eco-conscious cohort
The rise of Depop and other consumer-to-consumer fashion redistribution platforms and applications, including Vinted and Vestiaire Collective, illustrate the appeal of circular economy – make the most of the resources already in circulation and the often more affordable prices that go with them. This is particularly attractive to young consumers who are more concerned with sustainability, climate change and the future of the planet.
This generation also quickly adopted other sustainable lifestyle choices, such as vegan diets. Unlike the fashion industry, grocery store food suppliers in KFC have responded to this demand with increased availability of plant-based food products. Participation in the circular economy is an illustration of how consumers take responsibility for post-consumer behaviors and actively create opportunities for other consumers to adopt more sustainable fashion practices, with the added benefit of a income for those who participate in the circular economy by selling their unwanted products. merchandise.
One of the advantages of Depop is the accessibility of the application. Generation Z is a cohort that has grew up with digital, and applications are a familiar space for socialization, sharing and access to information and consumption. In addition, the inability to visit department stores and brick and mortar stores, more generally, due to the COVID-19 pandemic has forced most online consumption. As more and more consumers have become accustomed to having their mode delivered, there is no downside for them to buy through Depop.
At the same time, while consumers may wish to purchase more durable clothing, there are many established barriers, such as higher prices, a lack of fashion appeal, a lack of information, and a wider misunderstanding of sustainable fashion terminology. Beyond that, consumers are not prepared to sacrifice their identities and identities for the sake of sustainability, and this is especially true given that many buyers are unwilling to sacrifice their identity and identity for the sake of sustainability. understand all the ways the fashion industry is not sustainable.
Depop sidesteps some of these barriers by creating a marketplace where Gen Z consumers are both sellers and buyers, so the fashion sold on the app is particularly attracting them. This is an example of collaborative consumption, a system that integrates a number of alternative practices to allow longer use and by a greater number of goods. This can include redistributive markets, such as Depop, as a platform for exchanging used clothing, or clothing rental and borrowing, as is the case in a fashion library system.
Traders must act quickly
The fashion industry lags far behind when it comes to sustainability. The low cost of fast fashion encourages reckless consumption, and shoppers have come out calling it out – for example, the social media campaign against online retailer Pretty Little Thing for sell a dress for 8 cents at a Black Friday sale. Haute couture also has well-established shortcomings in its own working practices, waste, etc. So what can brands do to address these concerns?
Some brands offer a sustainable range made from organic or recycled materials. The problem is, these collections are often limited to basic items, such as vests, t-shirts, and leggings, and are surrounded by buzzing marketing babble. And any profit from these initiatives is largely overshadowed by the accelerated production of fast fashion. In the fast fashion space and beyond, many retailers aim to address sustainability by encouraging consumers to get rid of unwanted clothing through donation rather than addressing sustainability in production and retail. Some retailers encourage consumers to return unwanted clothes to the store – in exchange for a voucher to purchase a new fashion. However, the problem of climate change and the scarcity of resources cannot be solved by increased consumption.
The second-hand clothing market in the UK, for example, is not dynamic enough to resell the clothing donated to stores and charity shops, which means that much of this is found in developing countries or, in the event of a delay at the Brexit borders, stuck in warehouses.
Given that its business is all about harnessing what consumers want, it’s somewhat surprising that the fashion industry is so out of touch with consumer trends. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed social systems and consumption practices, and solidified the feeling of young consumers for conscious consumption. This new chapter, combined with the success of Depop, offers brands the opportunity to reconsider their economic models. Cos, which is part of the H&M group, is one of the fashion retailers that embraces it well. Allowing Consumers to buy and sell used Cos clothing online as part of its “Resale” program in conjunction with the established resale site Reflaunt. And London department store Selfridges has opened a permanent store “pre-loved” department, which sees it offering second-hand items at its flagship store in Oxford Street, central London, in partnership with Vestiaire Collective.
Given the momentum of Gen Z’s preference for collaborative consumption, my colleagues and I are expanding our research to examine engagement in redistributive markets, via physical apps and events, as well as the potential for rental mode. We will also examine whether young consumers perceive a loss of authenticity in Depop purchased by Etsy, such as when L’Oréal bought the Body Shop. It will be interesting to see if the change in ownership affects Depop’s business operations.
It is clear from Etsy’s purchase of Depop that there is commercial appeal for more sustainable fashion. As alternative digital fashion platforms gain popularity, the fashion industry must change – and quickly – if it is to remain relevant.
Elaine L. Ritch is a senior lecturer in marketing at the Caledonian University of Glasgow. (This article was originally published by The Conversation.)