If fashion retail is in decline, how are so many youth-centric brands bucking the trend?

It is no secret that a number of fashion brands and retailers are struggling to turn a profit in the current economy. Endless reports note the plight of the high street and a shift in consumer buying habits, with a stream of former retail giants going out of business or majorly downsizing. And yet, amongst the constant stream of profit warnings and redundancies, there are those few headlines which contradict the downward trend entirely, with reports of surging revenues and expansions: April alone saw both Primark and Boohoo.com post significant profits, placing them firmly out of step with the majority of the fashion industry. So what are they doing differently?

Fast fashion

Whilst Primark and Boohoo present entirely different business models (the former is a high street institution with no eCommerce channel, whilst the latter trades purely online), the commonality which has bolstered their successes is their thorough understanding of the taste, values, and desires of their core demographic: Generation Z.

Both brands focus on fast-fashion; low cost, on-trend clothing which keeps their clientele ‘Instagram-worthy’ and, importantly, brand loyal. High end brands have spent a lot of time criticising this particular avenue of the fashion industry, highlighting the perceived poor quality of such items and touting their own ‘investment pieces.’ For a generation who live with the daily pressures of social media urging them to avoid wearing the same outfit twice, both Boohoo and Primark’s highly affordable price points allow a constant stream of new clothes for unique looks.

Visual platforms like Snapchat and Instagram are constant reminders of Gen Z’s visibility, and both brands indulge this by engaging with their audiences on social media as well as their websites, with style guides and inspiration to ensure shoppers are full of ideas for their next purchase: Boohoo.com features a shoppable Instagram feed and regular flash sales to keep consumers ‘on trend’, while Primark’s newly upgraded site - whilst not an eCommerce platform - also posts regular style guides and real looks from consumers.

Positive impact

Understanding Gen Z goes far beyond just the opportunity to update your wardrobe each week: there is a huge focus on looking after the planet amongst this demographic, which fundamentally sits at odds with fast fashion. Besides the alleged poor quality, fast-fashion also comes with negative connotations of environmental impact and poor working conditions in production, both of which should be off-putting to the eco-warriors and human rights champions that make up Gen Z. Both Primark and Boohoo once again demonstrate an understanding of their consumers by shining a spotlight on their ethical codes, detailing the ways in which they attempt to alleviate these issues. Both lean heavily on their focus on recycling and sustainability, a commitment to the Living Wage in the UK, and good working conditions elsewhere (Primark even offer a 360° tour of their Bangladeshi factory!)

Whilst it is difficult to argue that there is no negative environmental or social impact of fast-fashion, in showing the ways in which they attempt to mitigate their damage, both Primark and Boohoo justify their places as go-to brands for an image conscious generation with a keen focus on saving the planet.

In an economy where traditional retailers are struggling to keep up, it is becoming increasingly clear that embracing the habits and - most importantly - championing the values of the up and coming spending power of Gen Z is the best way to survive.