New research from the 2012 Ryan Partnership Chicago/Mambo Sprouts Marketing Styling Sustainability consumer apparel survey indicates consumers would increase eco-apparel purchasing if only they could find such products.
Despite the challenge, survey data shows that consumers intend to double their eco-apparel purchases this year. In 2011, leading shopper interest were eco-apparel gateway categories such as footwear (23 percent), active/workout wear (21 percent) and women's casual wear (21 percent), with green options purchased by about one in five respondents. While seven in ten (69 percent) considered eco/sustainability at least sometimes when purchasing clothing in 2011, eco-fashion purchase intent doubles in nearly every category in 2012, with the gateway segments reaching 48 percent, 47 percent, and 47 percent, respectively.
While price will always be top-of-mind, lack of availability appeared to be a strong limiting factor. About one in three (33 percent) of those who don't regularly consider sustainability in their apparel purchases said they didn't buy sustainable because it wasn't available where they shop and one in four (28 percent) said they didn't even know where to purchase eco/sustainable clothing.
"The data is showing a strong interest in eco/sustainable apparel. This represents a growth opportunity, especially if manufacturers and retailers make it easier to find," said Christine Nardi Diette, group president, Ryan Partnership Chicago.
When shoppers do buy eco/sustainable, more than half (57 percent) said they became aware of eco-attributes through product tags, while a third (37 percent) credited in-store information. Fewer than one in four use digital means to seek out eco/sustainable information through online search (23 percent) and brand websites (22 percent).
Notably, a majority of shoppers (61 percent) expressed interest in an Apparel Sustainability Rating or Index. One consumer said, "It would be a tipping point if I were choosing between two products of similar price and quality or might persuade me to buy the more expensive product."
Diette points out that eco/organic food, personal care and cleaning products have already overcome this eco-awareness hurdle. "We believe sustainable apparel may be next if the industry can pull together with a similar effort to better market the category," Diette said.
The survey shows that shoppers seek eco-conscious apparel at mainstream retailers where they shop, suggesting those products represent an immediate growth opportunity for all apparel retailers, not just niche shops. "We believe there's a case to be made for more consistent and impactful eco-apparel product labeling and compelling point-of-sale signage. A 'store-within-a-store' concept for this category could significantly increase shopper perception of availability as well, eliminating a major barrier to purchase," Diette said.
Also, the report revealed eco-conscious consumers aren't willing to trade fit or durability, and rank a number of "sustainable" factors at the same level of importance in their purchase decision, such as "fun" and "fashionable." With the growing availability of a range of stylish yet sustainable apparel options, today's shoppers can have it all – if they can find it.
The survey was fielded among 1,000 eco-conscious shoppers. Visit One Green Score for One Earth (www.onegreenscore.com) for details.