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Effects of Covid-19: sustainability awareness and increasing demand for PPE

By Anna Zwettler


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The coronavirus crisis is drawing attention to sustainable fashion, as well fueling an increasing demand for PPE. Fast fashion consumption is slowing down as UK and US mass market brands experience a decline in demand, while face masks are selling out so quickly that retailers struggle to restock.

That’s according to retail data company Edited’s most recent coronavirus centric reports.

Coronavirus emphasizes sustainable fashion practices

As lockdown measures were intensified, Shanghai, Tokyo and Moscow fashion weeks transitioned to digital events where they presented their collections online through livestreams and pre-recorded content. After this virtual shift, Edited predicted that digital approaches will expand to other areas across the supply chain, which will help buyers reduce traveling and waste.

According to the United Nations Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, the fashion industry accounts for eight to 10 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. As a result of Covid-19, China shut down factories at the start of the year, causing emissions to fall by nearly 25 percent. On the side of supply chains, brands were disrupted as deliveries decreased with every increase of case numbers. Edited suggested that retailers should postpone orders instead of canceling deliveries so that factories are not left with excess stock that they are unable to sell.

With each step back to normality, consumer mindsets and shopping behaviors will change. Retailers should prioritize creating authentic relationships with customers, as well as building engagement and brand loyalty. Focus should also be placed on launching capsule wardrobes with a ‘buy less, buy better’ concept and investing in eco-friendly loungewear.

After the 2008 recession, customers returned to nature-based activities, such as backpacking, mountain biking and trail running. Once quarantine measures are eased, it is predicted that people will once again find a new appreciation for nature, which should signal the importance of stocking outdoor apparel. Edited also recommended that retailers produce sustainable swimwear and “take the opportunity to promote holidaying locally to avoid added carbon emissions and overcrowding beaches.”

As retailers worldwide jumped to produce face masks and hospital gowns, businesses repurposed excess material and deadstock fabrics that would have been discarded otherwise. Also, in future, non-medical masks could remain as a permanent accessory and fashion statement.

The increasing demand for PPE

Since personal protective equipment is provided to healthcare professionals, consumers are turning to retailers to buy face masks. Whether worn for protection or trend, the face mask has begun integrating itself into mainstream culture and with demand rising, retailers are struggling to restock. Edited explained: “Of all new face masks landing since November 1, 7.3 percent have experienced a sellout with just 3.4 percent replenished.”

Earlier this month, Edited launched a Covid-19 digital dashboard to help retailers navigate online sales. The Retail Dashboard features real-time data and allows companies to gain information on the retail industry’s response to the variation in demand caused by the pandemic.

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