Shame to buy? This is the new trend among consumers

This can become a nightmare for brands as they lose the associated consumption flow without a clear solution to the problem.

Photo: Avan
Photo: Avan

Many things have changed in the market and have changed how consumers face things and brands. Demographic changes have forced companies to re-understand what matters to their customers and how they are.

The millennials, for example, completely changed the rules of the game and forced companies to redefine their strategies, something they had to do again when Generation Z members hit the market. The social changes of recent decades have changed gender roles but also what is expected of consumers at different stages of their lives, forcing companies to strive to understand this new reality and change their strategy. And the list could go on for many paragraphs, because companies have had to adjust to many new realities.

All these changes did not alter, however, the essence of what consumption is. Brands simply had to understand what the new markers were that drove purchases and what those new consumers were like, but they were not faced with an earthquake in the essence of what consumption is. Those consumers were different from those who had played the leading role in consumption before, but they were still consumers in essence. They continued to buy.

And that could be the big difference from the last big change in consumer habits and concerns. Now the change in how they are and what they expect could be affecting the very essence of consumption. Consumers are simply stopping buying.

Shame on Consumers

The first movement that made this trend clear was the flygskam, the shame of flying. The movement had a lot to do with the growing environmental awareness of consumers, who were increasingly concerned about the impact of their decisions on the environment. Being aware of how polluting air travel is, these consumers felt a rejection of flights and preferred alternative means of transport.

The trend was born in the Scandinavian countries (the word is Swedish, where there is also tågskryt, pride of train), where the impact has already been felt. In Sweden, in the first quarter of the year, air traffic fell by 5% and the railway company closed it, however, with a record number of passengers. This summer, one of the recurring media reports was, for example, that Austria was recovering its night trains. Consumers wanted them, however clean and with the potential to be comfortable.

The tourism industry is not alone in seeing the impact of this change. The fashion industry has also begun to notice the pull of this consumer blackout. The trend also comes from Sweden and is called köpskam. It literally translates into the embarrassment of buying. Its main victim is fast fashion, which has underpinned fashion consumption (in a decade it has increased 60% of fashion purchases by consumers around the world) and which lives off the frenzy of buying collection after collection.

Of course, this movement curbs direct consumption by buyers, but it also has more ramifications. It makes those who are associated with those consumption patterns to be sprinkled by a critique of the image. “Köpskam can affect celebrities, influencers and brands in particular, because it is these figures who show their new acquisitions and collaborations most in networks”, explained Neus Soler, lecturer at the UOC’s Faculty of Economics and Business Studies.

The case of fashion

Market data can already be read in a certain way in this key, they remember in an analysis from the UOC. The market is saturated with fashion and consumers are increasingly critical of these throwaway consumption patterns, which means that some brands are in crisis (Forever 21 has gone bankrupt) or that fashion consumption is falling (in 2018 the purchase of fashion in France fell by 3.6%). At the same time, new business models are appearing. The companies that allow renting clothes are growing, as well as the purchase of more resistant and durable materials.

A GlobalData analysis warned a few weeks ago that consumers were “waking up to the benefits of using clothes in a more sustainable way. Consumers showed an “appetite” for tools that would allow them to consume fashion in a more responsible way (for example, large clothing chains now have buckets for the collection of clothes for recycling).

It is therefore not surprising that the use of recycled or second-hand clothing is also increasing. As they grandly proclaimed in a press release from one of those online second-hand clothing stores, True Vintage, vintage clothing stores were the ones helping to save the world.

A wider change

And although köpskam is associated with the fashion industry, its translation speaks of consumption, which opens the door to a wider and more transversal application that could impact more markets. After all, as they pointed out in an analysis in Business Insider, the impact on the Swedish market of changes in consumption due to growing environmental concerns is seen not only in transport or fashion but also in food.

It should be added, moreover, that the changes that implied a decline in consumption in the past, such as those marked by austerity during the crisis, had an expected expiration date. When things got back on track economically, consumers were expected to do so as well. They could buy back because they would have liquidity again. The change, however, could now be much more structural.

Author: Puro Marketing