Fast Fashion in the UK

August 21, 2007

Cheap fashion: the trend may be over
Prices have fallen dramatically in the past decade as products are sourced from countries with low labour costs, but clothes cannot carry on getting cheaper. By Karen Attwood

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British fashionistas have never had it so good. For the past decade the price of clothing has been falling at an astonishing rate, and almost everyone is now able to afford a wardrobe, or even two, stuffed full of the latest fads. The discerning consumer has got into the habit of mixing and matching, buying a number of expensive pieces to wear together with a range of cheaper staples. As fashion has got cheaper, more clothes have been snapped up. In 1997, the average woman bought 19 items of clothing a year, but this has now risen to 34 items a year.

But research published today suggests the trend towards ever-decreasing pricing is coming to end, and while clothing may remain relatively keenly priced over the next few years, the dramatic falls that consumers have been taking for granted for so long will no longer be seen.

Neil Saunders, consulting director at the research firm Verdict Consulting, who carried out the study, said there are several factors that have been driving prices down. Perhaps, most obviously is the sourcing of products from countries around the world, such as China and Bangladesh, where labour costs are phenomenally cheap. “This has underpinned price deflation,” Mr Saunders said, and has allowed value players, such as Primark and H&M, to flourish. The expansion of the major supermarkets and the value players into clothing “has reshaped the competitive landscape”. The low prices of Primark, and supermarkets such as Asda and Tesco, has meant that other retailers have had to lower their prices to try to remain competitive. Retailers such as M&S and Next have been able to maintain sales figures despite slashing prices due to higher volumes flying off the shelves. “Instead of someone buying one T-shirt, they will buy two or three,” Mr Saunders points out. “People are buying fashion in a much more disposable way.”

Between 2003 and 2007 prices have fallen by an average of 10 per cent.


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