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Primark’s new sustainability drive may not increase customer loyalty

Tom Bottomley
16 September 2021

This week, high street king of fast fashion Primark revealed a new 10-year sustainability strategy called “Primark Cares”, pledging to make all of its clothing using recycled or more sustainably sourced materials by 2030, while reducing fashion waste and halving carbon emissions.

It’s new in-store “How Change Looks” campaign is aimed at its customers to embrace a way of thinking, and shopping, with sustainability at the core.

However, earlier this month, omnichannel customer engagement platform Emarsys launched its 2021 Customer Loyalty Index, to coincide with Sustainable Fashion Week. The findings from the study of 7,000 UK customers do not point to Primark gaining much customer loyalty from its newfound ethical stance.

In fact, it revealed that only one fifth of customers (21%) are loyal to fashion brands for ethical reasons, compared to two thirds (62%) who are swayed by product choice and 44% by discounts, points or incentives – which Primark already excels at.

Director of Customer Engagement Solutions at Emarsys, Payal Hindocha, said: “Sustainability is hugely important to fashion - more now than ever before. Nobody is saying fashion brands should give up on their sustainability effort. But sustainability is also being sold as a way to drive more sales and repeat purchases. In reality, that’s not necessarily the case. Loyalty is driven by a wide variety of factors, of which, unfortunately, ethical behaviour is still only one small part.

“Of course, it’s a given that consumers are motivated by price, as every fashionista loves an incentive such as a discount or reward. But we must remember that the key concern for most retailers, included those in the fashion industry, is keeping consumers returning regularly, instead of shopping just once for a one-off bargain. This is fundamental to achieving greater customer loyalty.

“Fashion retailers need to put sustainability at the heart of their brands, but in order to drive real customer loyalty they need to take a more all-encompassing approach. Ethical products, delivered with a strong customer service, at the right price.”

Primark has said that its move to use recycled and more sustainably sourced materials will not result in higher prices. For its customers to be swayed into making more ethically-minded purchases, the retailer may well need to stand firm on that commitment.

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