Fast fashion and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

A man carrying an H&M bag

The coronavirus outbreak is having a far reaching impact on businesses in almost every part of the world – be it small scale or big ticket! From prominent industry players laying off several thousands workers at a time to small-scale organizations grappling for existence, the situation in the corporate world seems to get grimmer by the day. And the globe of fashion isn’t spared as well!

America’s largest chain of luxury stores, Neiman Marcus Group Inc. is the latest one to have filed for bankruptcy. In a series of reports by prominent media houses over the last 24 hours, it was noted that creditors will possibly take over the retail chain, which has an outstanding credit worth $4.3 billion. Partner company Bergdorf Goodman, confirmed the news in a social media post calling it a “financial restructuring” and that it did not mean “liquidation of our business”.

The deplorable plight of such established names, primarily brings two questions to our mind – 1) What will be the possible predicament of small scale retailers? 2) Will fast fashion grow more than ever before and suppress our sustainable development goals?

Reflecting on the first one, closure and total insolvency of micro retailers seems imminent now. This will not only result in millions having to go without a source of earning, but also raise concerns regarding a severe recession, recovering from which might take months if not years! Unemployment might also trickle down to a law and order disruption in many countries, since an empty mind tends to be a devil’s workshop! 

Now, coming to the second, fast fashion too seems to have suffered a blow by the ongoing pandemic. Retail major Zara, reported a 13.4% drop in profits from its India operations in FY’19. This, though a setback, hasn’t really dimmed the company’s bright prospects, thanks to bulk e-buying and attractive discounts offered to its customers.

Counterparts H&M, Topshop, Lulu Lemon etc too are not likely to be impacted much despite store closures over a prolonged period. With the current economic scenario, luxury buying will indeed be hit, and more people will turn towards these brands.

Another reason for their success lies in the adoption of ‘Greenwashing’ – pretending to be more ‘green’ (sustainable) than they actually are. This, seems to have been luring buyers more than ever before, who think their favorite brands aren’t making them indulge in the guilt of causing climate change anymore, when the reality is exactly the opposite.

The more the manufacturing of such apparel increases, more we get away from our sustainability objective. Of course our motto isn’t whistleblowing, but making people a slight much aware and little less indifferent.

Well, the planet is enjoying the perks of manufacturing coming to a halt and less cars on the road, in the form of reduced global warming, but we need to revive economic activity as soon as possible or a bleak future awaits us!