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Next Fashion Retail – sustainable clothing

Client: SDF

Involved researcher(s): Jacqueline Arnoldy

Involved Institute(s): Innovation Networks

Although consumers indicate that they value sustainable aspects of clothing, the range of sustainable clothing offered by SME multi-brand fashion retailers doesn’t sell well. Next Fashion Retail (NFR) has formulated the research question: How can SME multi-brand fashion retailers design their customer journey to increase the sales of (more) sustainable clothing? 

The study focuses on nine SME retailers that offer either a fully sustainable (purpose-driven retailers) or a partially sustainable clothing line (in-transition retailers). The goal of the project is to provide practical guidance on making a sustainable clothing supply profitable for SME multi-brand fashion retailers. The results will be concrete point-of-sales and customer journey innovations that can be applied directly by the SME multi-brand retailer. This RAAK SME project, funded by SIA, builds on the project Future Proof Retail, which tested retail innovations in lab environments.

Although consumers indicate that they value sustainable aspects of clothing, this does not directly translate into sales of more sustainable clothing. SME multi-brand fashion retailers that are making their selection more sustainable complain about the poor resale of sustainable brands; the most sustainable brands end up highly discounted in the sales bin. It is not clear why (more) sustainable clothing doesn’t sell well and there is little insight into consumer behaviour in the area of sustainable clothing. How does the consumer behave in purchasing sustainable fashion and how can the retailer better respond to this?

Next Fashion Retail wants to research how services, expertise, the atmosphere and the unique retail experience can influence the buying behaviour for sustainable clothing and what role the SME multi-brand retailer can play in this customer journey. This involves knowledge of consumer needs (1), influencing behaviour (2) and the test results of different retail approaches (3) to persuade consumers to make a (more) sustainable purchase. 

The research focuses on the two groups of SME retailers: purpose-driven and in-transition retailers. What can both parties learn from each other’s points of engagement and customer approaches? In Next Fashion Retail, we bring these two SME groups together for the first time. 

The Hague University of Applied Sciences is collaborating in this project with the TMO Fashion Business School and CUBE retail. Students of TMO and The Hague University of Applied Sciences are conducting the research and designing innovations, in partnership with the retailers. These innovations are tested in lab environments, on the retailers’ shop floors. The outcome will be practical tools that have been tested in real life.

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