7 benefits of joining the circular economy

Image by 180LA
Image by 180LA

Conscious consumers are again setting the direction for brands.

Can a middle-aged dad of two pull off a vintage Space Invaders t-shirt? 

I asked myself that question while shopping on Depop, the used clothing platform Etsy recently acquired for $1.7 billion. It is the latest online thrifting platform, such as ThredUP and Poshmark, which both had multibillion-dollar IPOs this year. Brands including Levi’s and Lululemon have caught on, announcing their own stores focusing on the resale of used products. 

Conscious consumers are again setting the direction for brands. 

The circular economy, as it’s called, is not new. What’s interesting is the speed at which circular commerce has moved into the mainstream.  

The fashion and sports apparel industries have been pumping out garments for decades without thinking about the consequences to the environment. Not dissimilar to the invaders on my t-shirt, fast fashion relentlessly bombarded consumers, filling Instagram feeds, closets and landfills all over the world. It now looks like those days are at an end. 

Brands can take advantage of the circular economy by launching used diffusion lines. Nike could launch Legacy, for example, or Adidas, True Originals. Lacoste could roll out Déjà Vu, and Rolex, Forever. Like the auto industry, they could be sold as certified pre-owned. It’s good for the consumer, good for ailing brands and best of all, great for the planet. 

My advice: jump on board. And if your brand team needs convincing, here are seven real brand benefits of the circular economy.  

Why should brands embrace the circular economy?

Teens spend 8% of their total shopping time in the used category, a $30 billion category projected to grow 5X over the next 5 years. I again highlight: Poshmark and ThredUP now have multibillion-dollar valuations.   

What do we know about consumers in the circular economy?

A research study by First Insight finds that 73% of Gen Z consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products, with a majority willing to pay a 10% price premium.

How can brands enter the circular economy?

Partnering with a company like Trove would be the quickest and easiest way. But again, the concept of ‘resale’ has been undertaken by categories from autos, to homes to cell phones for years. While it’s fairly new to fashion, it’s no more ludicrous than getting into a stranger’s car for a ride (Uber or Lyft) or staying in a stranger’s house (Airbnb).  

How can we get brands comfortable with the idea that new isn’t necessarily better? 

This isn’t just about clothes; this is about values. It also represents a new opportunity to engage with your audience. It is not just about the sale, but the lifetime of a garment. Sell to buy back leads to another sale. We can learn a lot here from the auto industry. 

What happens to brands that don’t embrace the circular economy?

This could soon be as important as the recycle mark. If you don’t embrace the circular economy, you will soon find yourself on the wrong side of your audience.  

Who will win, who will lose?

Used platforms have exploded, but only a few brands, such as Patagonia, Lululemon and Levi’s have made the leap. There is a huge opportunity in luxury and sports apparel. Fast fashion brands will be the casualties, the dinosaurs of tomorrow. Today’s consumer craves and chooses ethical and sustainable over inexpensive and fast. 

Will it replace new?

It won’t replace, but augment. It also adds inherent value to the product through its lifetime — think classic, vintage, preowned.

Al Moseley is global chairman and CCO of 180LA.

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