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Study shows Gen Z willingness to rent clothes

By Rachel Douglass


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Image: Unsplash

A study by Washington State University has found that Gen Z are willing to use clothing rental services in order to reduce waste.

The study, conducted by Ting Chi from the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles, gave insight into both the buying behaviour of Gen Z as well as the possibility of the group becoming regular consumers of rental apparel. A total of 362 US-based adults born between 1997 and 2002 were surveyed, with respondents expressing potential interest in the rising rental trend.

“The idea is growing more popular, especially among Gen Z consumers,” said Ting Chi, in a comment on the university website. “They are very interested in sustainable consumerism, care about the environment and are willing to make changes to help the planet.”

The study examined 5 overlaying factors that could influence a shoppers decision to use rental services, including attitude, subject norms, perceived consumer effectiveness, past environmental behaviour and fashion leadership.

The most influential factor found was that of ‘perceived contribution to environmental protection’ with results revealing that if consumers felt they had an impact they would be more likely to welcome rental services with open arms. The point highlighted the importance of the education of sustainable benefits as well as peer perception of the service.

Those who considered themselves as ‘fashion leaders’ also noted the benefits of rental clothing. With short trend cycles making apparel appear disposable, fashion leaders run through a huge amount of clothing. The survey results showed that individuals understood that renting allowed them access to products earlier than others, without the responsibility of ownership.

Chi explained: “They would get newer products more frequently than if they own an item. The desire to get more new articles of clothing made it more likely that they would try rental services.”

Overall, the study showed a promising lean towards the more sustainable rental option, containing useful suggestions on how to reach the experimental and fast-paced Gen Z consumer. If they can be convinced, Gen Z’s could be a useful player in the rental industry future.

“We’re wasting too many textiles,” added Chi. “Americans are buying an average of 67 clothing items every year, but how many do we really need? They’re inexpensive but cause real environmental damage. We need to make an individual effort to help the environment and one way to help is bringing in a sharing economy.”

Gen Z