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Old clothes, new consumption: exploring second-hand apparel consumption practice in the UK
Household spending on clothes and footwear in the UK has increased by 10.24% from approximately 65 billion pounds in 2015 to 72 billion pounds in 2017. However, with such a large amount of expenditure, consumers in the UK left around 10 billion pounds of clothes as waste, 23% of residents’ wardrobes in London are unworn. The mass overproduction and extremely poor working condition have led to accidents in Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Hundreds and thousands of workers lives have been taken away. In addition, 10 percent of global carbon emission comes from the fashion industry and 25 percent of chemicals produced globally is used for the fashion industry, making it the second-largest polluting industry. All these are indications of overconsumption and overproduction in the fashion industry. Being rife with social and environmental problems, the fashion industry and society call for alternative fashion consumptions. The marketplace has seen several sustainable fashion business models have emerged in the marketplace. For instance, ethical fashion, recycling and upcycling fashion, slow fashion and collaborative fashion, they have attracted much attention from industry and academia. However, most of them are still in their infancy or too expensive and not widely-reached by the general public. To that end, second-hand fashion channels, including charity shops, vintage shops, thrift shops, online exchange/sale platforms, etc., has been developed as an antithesis of the throwaway society. While referring the literature on second-hand fashion consumption, only few studies have looked into the motives of second-hand clothing consumption. Additionally, it is worthy to further explore the value-action gap, which refers to the gap between consumers concern for sustainability and their actual purchase action in the market. According to the literature, the gaps exist because there is lack of knowledge and information available, and people’s attitudes, values and inherent bias towards sustainable clothing; Other product-related or channel-related factors such as cost, fashion trends and physical convenience are also major obstacles for consumers to purchase sustainable clothing. To sum up, there is little research exploring the underlying perceptions and buying behaviours of consumers towards second-hand fashion consumption within the framework of sustainable consumption. We thus address this gap through qualitative life histories interview lasting approximately 2 hours. Both of consumers who have performed second-hand clothing consumption behaviours and consumers who have not purchased but have awareness of second-hand fashion would be the participants of this research. The sample selection would help the present research to gain relatively comprehensive insights about consumers’ perceptions and purchasing practices towards second-hand clothing consumption. This research will make contributions to knowledge and theory in this field and shed some light into this emerging and contemporary online and in-shop second-hand consumption. Preliminary findings demonstrate the low consumer awareness and knowledge about second-hand consumption practices and overall alternative methods of consumption. They also highlight the importance of previous sustainability-related experience and altruistic value to this consumption.