Compulsive shopping isn’t only bad for the planet, it’s also not making consumers in Europe and Asia very happy, according to a new report from Greenpeace, released ahead of this week’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit.
The environmental organisation’s study shows fashion shoppers regularly overspend on new clothes, with the excitement of doing so often turning into guilt after less than a day.
In all the countries surveyed (including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Italy and Germany), most consumers admitted to owning more clothes than they needed, with many of them having multiple items in their wardrobes that have never been worn.
Some consumers are more affected than others – 41% of all Chinese consumers are found to be excessive or compulsive shoppers for instance, with 59% of them saying they can’t stop themselves making impulse buys even though they realise they are buying too much. A quarter of respondents in Germany, a third in Italy, 42% in Hong Kong and a staggering 46% in China admit that they often buy more clothes than they can afford.
While the average consumer buys clothes around once or twice a month, the excessive shopper rarely goes more than a week without purchasing something new. In China again, 31% said they feel empty, bored or lost when not shopping, and in Hong Kong and Taiwan, 50% of consumers revealed they sometimes hide or conceal their purchases from others out of fear of negative reactions.
Unsurprisingly, one of the big triggers is social media, with platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook or WeChat in China, driving shopping mania, especially among young digitally connected consumers. Other influencing factors include celebrity endorsements, peer pressure and sales promotions.
That insight comes off the back of a study last year from McKinsey & Company, which showed that annual clothing production exceeded 100 billion for the first time in 2014. It also highlighted that consumers now keep clothing items for about half as long as they did 15 years ago, and that nearly three-fifths of all clothing produced ends up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being made.
The Greenpeace research further highlights that the majority of shoppers – ranging from 65% in Germany and Italy to 48% in China – think the excitement of buying fashion wears off after a day or less, while a third say they feel even emptier once it does so.
“Our surveys show that binge shopping is followed by an emotional hangover – made of emptiness, guilt and shame. People start to realise they are trapped in an unsatisfying cycle of cheap, disposable fashion trends and that their overconsumption does not lead to lasting happiness. This should serve as a warning to companies and advertisers that promote the current fast fashion model. Fast fashion clothing brands should radically change their business model by shifting focus away from high volume production towards quality and durability,” said Kirsten Brodde, project lead of the Detox my Fashion campaign at Greenpeace.
The campaign has committed 79 global textile brands and suppliers to ban hazardous chemicals from their supply chains by 2020. In order to protect the planet further, it is also calling for a change in the way we consume clothing.
“In today’s broken fashion system, companies spend billions of ad dollars to sell us false dreams of happiness, beauty and connection tied to shopping products. But we would be much happier if fashion labels provided clothes that are high quality, durable companions for life, and offered support for customers to care, share and repair our clothes. We and the planet deserve nothing less,” Brodde added.