British shopping centre developer Westfield recently released a landmark report. It argued that the UK’s fashion industry could generate almost £1bn in revenue, via its under-developed clothes rental market, adding that there’s space for expansion in the number of retailers providing this service.
The UK is a major player in the global fashion industry. Our capital city hosts one of the top fashion weeks on earth, where talented home-grown designers such as Christopher Kane, Stella McCartney and JW Anderson regularly showcase the hottest trends. We also have some of the most reputable fashion brands around, from high street names like Top Shop, to online retailers like ASOS.
Fashion is a major contributor to the British economy. However, experts are concerned that the UK’s decision to leave the EU could damage our fashion industry. It could make it harder for top European talent to learn and work in London. It could also make it more expensive for our shops to import, so we could have to pay up to 16% more for clothes, according to the Independent, post-Brexit.
One way to start tackling this problem, would be to make it easier for consumers to rent clothing instead. In their latest study, industry publication Drapers writes, Westfield found that over a quarter of Londoners would be willing to rent clothing, creating an untapped revenue stream of £390m in our capital alone. The potential size of the UK’s rental clothing market as a whole is a staggering £923m.
Delving deeper, nearly 30% of those polled in London admitted that they would be willing to spend a minimum of £200 per month on renting clothing. Meanwhile, 50% of millennial Londoners, those aged 25 to 34, expressed this viewpoint. Westfield also discovered that 20% of consumers in our country’s capital would be willing to regularly rent exercise clothing, shoes and handbags as well.
Westfield’s Chief Marketing Officer for the UK and Europe, Myf Ryan, argued that this trend can be linked to the expansion of the sharing economy in this country, seen with firms like Airbnb. Explaining, she noted: “Although current rental retailers are predominately online we predict this trend will go offline. People still do most of their shopping in physical stores and we know that over 75% of shoppers in the UK still want to touch, feel and try out products in a physical store environment.”
Going on, she said that we can “track forward and imagine where this movement might take physical retailing, not just within fashion, but across a wide range of retail areas.” Adding further, she argued that in future, major UK retailers could include “hire or buy” areas in stores. Also commenting, the British Retail Consortium’s Chief Executive, Helen Dickinson, said: “This report is further evidence that how we shop in the UK is fundamentally changing. Retailers are adapting their businesses and enhancing the experience in store to meet continuously evolving consumer demands.”
The rise of digital technology is fast changing the UK fashion industry. With services like ASOS, we can now order clothing on our smartphones, on the go and Westfield’s report indicates that this is facilitating the rise of a sharing economy online. As Brexit makes buying clothes more expensive, this could translate offline, as people start renting stylish pieces to keep costs low, while looking fabulous.
About Helen Beaumont
Helen Beaumont’s career started at Camberwell College of Art, where she studied the History of Art and Design, specialising in costume during her final year. After completing study, Helen became a costume buyer for theatre and opera. She has since become a professional costume designer, with a keen interest in period clothing. Throughout her career, Helen has created authentic costumes for prestigious companies such as the Universal Studios, Disney, BBC, Tiger Aspect and the Young Vic Theatre.