Fashion + The Global Crisis

Fashion, Suppliers & the Global Crisis

The role of mainstream media during the Covid-19 global pandemic

The media is undoubtably an incredible tool which allows news to be presented on a variety of platforms to the entire nation and beyond. Despite its positive implications, the delivery of news through media outlets can often cause negative emotions and provoke panic. This is something that we, as a nation, have experienced throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

There have been criticisms surrounding how Covid-19 news updates have been presented by the media. The focus has heavily been on the negative aspects of the pandemic, without a healthy balance. The positive aspects, such as communities coming together and showing a united front to support our NHS and key workers, where barely touched on in the initial weeks of the pandemic. However, positive stories such as that of Captain Tom Moore, have begun to inundate the media, spreading positivity.

The switch in how the media is presenting the current news is helping to lift the negativity we, as a nation, are feeling during this time of isolation. By providing increasing numbers of heart-warming isolation stories and community support actions, we are able to come together in a time of uncertainty and even severe loneliness for many.  

The impact that Covid-19 has had on the fashion industry

It comes as no surprise that the pandemic has significantly impacted the economy and as such, has had a dramatic effect on the fashion industry. Prior to the pandemic, the fashion industry was generating an annual revenue of £2.02 trillion. In the weeks since the UK was forced into lockdown, a number of fashion retailers have reported that the effects of the pandemic have negatively impacted sales. As a result, many retailers are facing struggles.

The majority of fashion retailers have turned to the government’s furlough scheme to pay staff during the pandemic. John Lewis is among many retailers who have been forced to furlough thousands of staff during this uncertain time.

Whilst many retailers are managing to cope with the aid of the furlough scheme, the same cannot be said for others. Oasis and Warehouse have gone into administration with the brands continuing to be sold online in the short-term. The brands’ chief executive, Hash Ladha, branded the news “shocking and difficult”. Debenhams have also filed for administration for the second time in a year. It is extremely sad to watch an industry unfold before our own eyes.

Is Ecommerce the way forward for high street brands?

The pandemic also continues to halt sales for many other brands that were struggling to trade on the high street. Primark has reportedly gone from making sales of £650 million per month to having sold nothing since their final stores closed on the 22nd of March. This raises the question as to whether high street retailers like Primark should incorporate Ecommerce into their business model.

Ecommerce is an industry that is continuing to generate high volumes of sales despite the current circumstances surrounding the pandemic. Online fast fashion retailers seem to be acting as the main suppliers to the current demand during this crisis. Oh Polly reported a sell-out of their restocked gym wear range within hours of its release. The continued success of online fashion retailers shows that consumer demand for fashion remains high, regardless of the current circumstances.

It will be interesting to watch how the fashion industry continues to adapt to this pandemic. These changes will be necessary to support the industry following the pandemic. Will we witness a shift in brands turning to Ecommerce to abolish overheads and running costs?

What does this mean for our environment?

There is an increasing issue surrounding fashion and the impact that it has on our environment. The fashion industry produces an estimated 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions each year. Fast-fashion amounts for a large percentage of this. Consumers have become almost obsessed with the nature of purchasing a garment to wear it once, uploading an image to their social media and discarding of the item in favour of something new. This purchasing trend is having a detrimental impact on the environment, and little is being done to rectify it.

During this pandemic would be a great time for us, as consumers, to address our purchasing habits. We should take this opportunity to adapt and replace our current habits in favour of sustainable alternatives. Without necessarily being aware of a change in my own habits, they have noticeably changed as a direct result of the pandemic. I made my first, and only fashion-based purchase just this week. The purchase was entirely practical, something that is not a factor that I would usually consider.

Sustainability seemed to be a main focus within the fashion industry prior to the pandemic. With individuals like Dame Vivienne Westwood addressing issues surrounding sustainability within the fashion industry and acting on them. I am unsure as to whether this continues to be such a key focal point in the fashion industry. I fear with the current circumstances, the topic is likely to be less of a priority and will continue to be so with the struggles our economy is continuing to face.

How are suppliers coping with the effects of the pandemic?

With a decrease in demand, many retailers have suspended ordering new stock. Due to the impact that the pandemic has had financially, some retailers have been forced to delay payments to suppliers. This continues to affect the entire supply chain, including those who work to produce the garments; many of whom were already working in conditions which exploited them. Associated British Foods (ABF), owners of Primark, have addressed this issue. They claim to have paid suppliers for the stock that Primark has already received.

The pandemic has created a great deal of uncertainty for many. Many UK based retailers supply their garments from emerging markets such as Thailand and Indonesia. Garment workers in these countries don’t have the support of furlough schemes and most are extremely poor. ABF is one company that has taken action to support their garment workers, by setting up a fund to continue to pay them throughout the pandemic.

Unfortunately, not all companies have reacted to the crisis the same. Due to a lack of funds, as a result of the pandemic, New Look have suspended payments to their suppliers. It is clear to see that the pandemic has had a considerable impact across the fashion industry. The pandemic will no doubt continue to affect the industry moving forward.

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