RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • Fashion retail is adapting to the responsible retail imperative—in response to growing consumer distaste for fashion waste.
  • Rentals and second-hand purchases are on the rise as the circular economy takes hold in fashion and apparel.
  • Physical stores remain an essential channel—but consumers expect more than a simple place to transact.


Accenture’s latest Holiday Shopping Survey shows that clothing and/or footwear is top of the holiday shopping list for 60 percent of consumers (rising to 66 percent of women), with clothing expected to represent around 20 percent of overall holiday purchases on average. In fact, only gift cards rate higher in consumers’ minds this season.

With consumers more environmentally and socially conscious, they are turning to brands that not only talk about responsibility—but demonstrate it.

Consumer expectations of fashion retailers are changing, and shoppers increasingly want their fashion retailers to reflect their own values and beliefs.

The environmental impact of fashion waste is becoming more and more of an issue for consumers. Stores and brands are having to reorient existing business models around sustainability, responsible retail, and the circular economy. The impact? Second-hand and vintage resales are increasing and fashion customers are turning to the circular economy by favoring rentals over outright purchases.

Consumers are turning to the circular economy with resale and rentals on the rise.

48%

of consumers would be happy to give the gift of second-hand clothing.

56%

of consumers would welcome gifts of this kind for themselves.

24%

of all consumers are likely or extremely likely to rent clothes for holiday parties.

34%

of older millennials of all consumers are likely or extremely likely to rent clothes for holiday parties.

Source: 2019 Accenture US Holiday Shopping Survey

Savvy apparel retailers are getting ahead of this trend by using circular economy models to eliminate waste, improve competitiveness, and drive a positive impact across the fashion value chain.

Research shows that business models such as one-off rentals, subscription-rentals, or recovery and resale can be not only environmentally beneficial but also financially viable for fashion retailers, particularly at the higher end of the market.

The physical store fights back

Bricks-and-mortar shopping remains a critical retail channel, especially in the lead up to the festive season. In fact, Accenture’s research shows consumers expect to do around half their holiday shopping in store this year.

What’s more, with carbon-conscious consumers increasingly favoring in-store pick-ups over expedited home delivery, the nature of the retail store is changing—becoming both a physical and online fulfillment hub as well as a place to get a sense of the ethos and purpose of the brand.

If retailers can align their store footprints with their strategies for customer service, online fulfillment, labor, assortment, and inventory allocation—and deliver an in-store experience that truly reflects the brand purpose—they should be well positioned to build on the holiday surge in the year ahead.

​Jill Standish

Senior Managing Director – Global Retail Consulting Practice

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