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January 17, 2020

Sustainability more embedded in purchase decisions

Expectations for more sustainable retail practices are growing as the oldest members of Generation Z move into the workforce, a new study has found.

By Michelle Russell

Expectations for more sustainable retail practices are growing as the oldest members of Generation Z move into the workforce, a new study has found.

According to ‘The State of Consumer Spending‘ by technology firm First Insight, 62% of Generation Z survey participants prefer to buy from sustainable brands, on par with Millennials, while 54% of Generation X and 44% of the Silent Generation said the same. However, only 39% of Baby Boomers agreed, pointing to a vast divide between Baby Boomers and younger generations.

The research defines the Silent Generation as those born from 1928-1945, Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1979), Millennials (1980-1994) and Generation Z (1995-2012).

Generation Z is also the most willing to pay more for sustainable products (73%) compared to Millennials (68%), Generation X (55%) and Baby Boomers (42%). Half of the Silent Generation expressed this sentiment. The majority of Generation Z (54%) are willing to spend an incremental 10% or more on sustainable products, versus 50% of Millennials, 34% of Generation X, 23% of Baby Boomers and 36% of the Silent Generation.

Of note, the majority of respondents across generations expect retailers and brands to become more sustainable, according to 73% of Generation Z, 78% of Millennials, 84% of Generation X, 73% of Baby Boomers and 68% of the Silent Generation.

“While Baby Boomers seem to be the holdouts when it comes to expecting more sustainable practices within retail overall, the research shows that with every generation, sustainability is becoming further embedded in purchase decisions,” says Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight.

“It’s incredibly important that retailers and brands continue to follow the voices of their customers. With Generation Z on track to becoming the largest generation of consumers this year, retailers and brands must start supercharging sustainability practices now if they are to keep pace with expectations around sustainability for these next-generation consumers, whether it is through consignment, upcycling, or even gifting around major holidays.”

When it comes to clothing, swaps and peer-to-peer marketplaces are the least popular model. While moderately popular with Millennials (24%) and Generation Z (29%), clothing swaps are not as widely adopted as other re-commerce models, with less than 20% of Gen X, Baby Boomer and the Silent Generation respondents reporting using them. Peer-to-peer marketplaces like Storr and rentals are least popular overall, with less than 10% of respondents reporting using them.

The study also found the majority of younger generations are buying upcycled products. Generation Z (59%) and Millennials (57%) say they would purchase upcycled products made of discarded objects or materials to create a product of higher quality or perceived value than the original, whereas fewer Generation X (47%) and Baby Boomers (38%) said the same. Interestingly, the Silent Generation was more inclined to buy upcycled products than Baby Boomers, with 52% saying they would buy upcycled products.

And when it comes to resale/consignment models, The RealReal, ThredUp, Poshmark, and Tradesy were reported as the second-most popular, with Generation Z (46%), Millennial (48%), and Generation X (46%) reporting they use these services. Baby Boomers (39%) and the Silent Generation (22%) are using them less, but still more than other re-commerce models.

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